Sarah Van Buskirk
Sophomore shortstop Anthony Salcedo’s extra inning heroics helped the Leopards open their conference schedule with a bang March 4. His 11th inning single drove in sophomore pinch runner Garrett Halbeisen for a 5-4 walk-off win over the Redlands Bulldogs at Ben Hines Field.
The Leopards kept the momentum going to sweep the Bulldogs the following two days. The victories boosted their record to 8-1-1 overall and 3-0 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
Starting on the mound for the Leopards was freshman Bennett Vogel and his 1.76 ERA for the season. He held the Bulldogs in check, giving up just one earned run in 5.1 innings of work.
Meanwhile, the Leopard offense got busy in the first inning. Junior first baseman Tanner Siffert singled to left field, followed by junior outfielder Brandon Shiota, who hit an RBI double to give the Leopards an early lead of 1-0.
“We did a good job at getting runs early in the game,” Siffert said. “We also did good at responding to Redlands in the 11th inning by answering with three runs.”
Leopard junior center fielder Drew Reddick got the crowd on its feet with a great defensive play in the top of the second inning. The Bulldogs’ clean-up hitter, senior catcher Matthew Brumbaugh, hit a drive to the warning track that Reddick chased down and caught while colliding the wall, saving a potential double.
With men still on the corners, Redlands junior designated hitter Omar Barraza singled in a run to tie up the game, 1-1.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Leopards took their lead back. With Shiota on third, freshman left fielder Logan Reese hit a triple, making the score 2-1.
“If we stick to the things we’ve practiced and trust our preparation then it really comes down to just playing our own game rather than anyone across the field,” Reddick said.
In the top of the sixth inning, junior pitcher Gerald Terry relieved Vogel on the mound. The Bulldogs tied the game up once again, however that was the last of the offense for both teams until extra innings.
As the sunlight began to disappear, the score was still 2-2 heading into the 11th inning as junior pitcher Alfredo Frey came in to pitch for the Leopards.
In the top of the 11th inning, the Bulldogs loaded the bases and scored on a passed ball by La Verne sophomore catcher Manuel Munoz to take the lead, 3-2.
A sacrifice fly by freshman right fielder Luke De Vries brought in another run to put the Bulldogs on top, 4-2.
The Leopards were then at bat with their final chances to win the game.
“We’re not always going to be able to deliver the first blow but we just need to remember to keep fighting no matter what the score says or what the other team does,” Shiota said.
Up first was Reese who reached first base on a fielding error by Bulldogs senior first baseman Mark Kirkland. Sophomore second baseman Chase Siffert then doubled to center, advancing Reese to third.
Freshman Malachi Francois came up to pinch hit for Munoz and tripled down the right field line to tie up the game for the third time, 4-4.
After Halbeisen came in to pinch run for Francois, Reddick was intentionally walked.
Back at the top of the batting order, Salcedo delivered with a single up the middle to bring Halbeisen home and end the game, 5-4.
“The connection we have with these guys is really strong this year,” Salcedo said. “I have a lot of trust in those guys and we can back each other up.”
The action in the series then moved to The Yard in Redlands for a doubleheader Saturday. The Leopards took the first game, 8-4. The second game was a slugfest that had to be paused with a 10-10 tie in the eighth inning due to darkness. When the game resumed with the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon, Shiota led off with a solo home run to give the Leopards an 11-10 win.
The Leopards will try to keep their momentum going as they host Whittier at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Ben Hines Field for a non-conference game. Then they will welcome in the visiting Pacific Lutheran Lutes for a doubleheader at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.