The La Verne baseball team won both games of the doubleheader against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps with eighth inning comebacks Saturday at Ben Hines Field to help head coach Scott Winterburn reach a milestone.
The Leopards beat the Stags, 8-5, in game one. But it was a 4-3 win in game two that gave Winterburn his 500th career win at the collegiate level.
“I feel great about things moving forward. Our team has shown great resilience,” Winterburn said. “This group is special and fun to coach. If we can get a little bit better each day then I think we can do something very special this season.”
Junior pitcher Gerald Terry took the mound for the Leopards in game two with an ERA of 1.71 this season. He pitched comfortably in the first two innings with a quick 1-2-3 inning in the first and an escaped jam in the second.
The Stags continued to give Terry a hard time throughout the course of the game. In the top of the third inning the Stags scored on a dropped fly ball from Leopards junior right fielder Brandon Shiota, followed by a sacrifice fly, to take an early 2-0 lead. Terry would soon escape the inning with a strikeout, limiting the damage.
The Leopards answered back in the next two innings. In the bottom of the third junior first baseman Tanner Siffert got a huge triple to chip away at the Stags’ lead, making the score 2-1.
Terry pitched a key 1-2-3 inning in the fourth to put the offense back in a position to score. They soon would do just that as freshman left fielder Logan Reese led off the inning with a triple. Junior center fielder Drew Reddick followed up with a single to send Reese home and tie the game up, 2-2.
“We’re feeling really good trusting in our plans and each other,” Reese said. “We’re a big family here, we’re having so much fun playing the game we love.”
The Leopards failed to score any more runs as a double play ended the inning.
In the top of the fifth inning the Stags immediately threatened Terry with runners on first and third, no outs.
Terry fought hard and managed to strike out the next two batters, but then gave up a single, putting the Stags up 3-2.
The Leopards responded back with a deep hit by sophomore shortstop Anthony Salcedo in the bottom of the fifth, but Salcedo was thrown out at home from a quick relay by the Stags. The Leopards offense struggled to get anything going in the middle innings.
However, Terry settled in and dominated, striking out the side in the top of the sixth inning followed by a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh.
“I feel pretty good considering I threw 108 pitches today,” Terry said. “My defense really kept me in the game and I believe is the reason I was able to go so deep and compete.”
As the Leopards bats grew cold and the eighth inning rolled around. With one out Shiota got a double, followed by a base hit from Reese.
In a clutch spot, freshman Malachi Francois came up to bat looking to give his team the lead in a pinch hit opportunity. He doubled to left center, scoring both Reese and Shiota, putting the Leopards up, 4-3.
“I was ready for the call,” Francois said. “I was locked in the whole time once I saw the lefty on the mound. He threw a pitch I liked and I didn’t miss it.”
The Leopards switched to junior pitcher Alfredo Frey to close the game in the ninth. Frey pitched a 1-2-3 inning giving the Leopards their second consecutive eight inning comeback victory with the final score 4-3.
La Verne kept the ball rolling by walloping Carleton, 19-2, Wednesday in a non-conference matchup.
The team is 14-3-1 overall and 6-0 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Leopards open a three-game series against Occidental at 3 p.m. Friday in Eagle Rock, then host a doubleheader against the Tigers at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ben Hines Field.
Aidan Balderas can be reached at email@example.com.