The Leopards baseball team let a late inning comeback by Cal Lutheran in Saturday’s doubleheader spoil a strong weekend against the Kingsmen.
The Leopards won the first game of the series Friday in Thousand Oaks, 11-2, and got the victory in game one of the doubleheader at Ben Hines Field, 8-0, with a dominant performance from the pitching staff. But they could not follow it up, losing game two in heartbreaking fashion, 7-3.
Between games, the Hines family held a ceremony honoring the recently passed Ben Hines, the former coach who brought La Verne its first national championship. They spoke of Hines’ impact on the Leopards’ winning culture and how he will be remembered as a man who had a passion for the game of baseball.
Freshman pitcher Bennett Vogel then took the mound for the Leopards in game two with a record of 3-0.
He pitched around several tough situations throughout the early innings. The Kingsmen managed to get plenty of hitters on, which caused trouble for Vogel and the defense.
However, the defense had Vogel’s back when runners were on base. Sophomore catcher Manuel Munoz threw out two runners in the game.
“Our coach was a catcher when he played baseball, so he really emphasizes receiving and releasing the ball so it can help us in-game,” Munoz said.
The Leopards’ offense struck first when sophomore second baseman Chase Siffert crushed a double to left center in the first inning, followed by an RBI single from junior outfielder Brandon Shiota to make it 1-0.
“We’re definitely happy for winning the series against Cal Lutheran. They’re a great team,” Siffert said. “We need to improve on situational hitting a little bit more in practice and then we should be ready to go for next week.”
In the bottom of the third Siffert got another hit to start it off. Shiota followed with a two run home run to put the Leopards up, 3-0. Vogel then pitched a quick 1-2-3 fourth inning after.
“He (Cal Lutheran senior pitcher Alexander Rivas) was attacking me with changeups. I was looking for the fastball intentionally but he threw me one that I liked and the ball ended up going far,” Shiota said.
In the top of the fifth inning Vogel got into a bases-loaded jam. A mound visit helped calm him down, but he gave up a base hit to put the Kingsmen on the board, 3-1. Vogel then locked in and struck out the next two batters, limiting the damage to just one run.
In the top of the sixth inning the Leopards brought in sophomore reliever Vicente Molina, who got the first two outs quickly. He then gave up a base hit followed by a game tying two run shot to sophomore catcher Brendan Durfee to make it a 3-3 ball game.
The Leopards immediately put in junior pitcher Alfredo Frey, who gave up the go-ahead run to put the Kingsmen up, 4-3.
The Leopards’ offense went silent while the Kingmen added insurance runs in the seventh and ninth inning to make it a 7-3 ball game.
Molina was charged with the loss, putting him 1-2 on the season.
“He got a good enough outing from our starting pitcher Vogel who did a great job getting out of the jam in the fifth keeping it 3-1 there. After that we didn’t do anything well,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “We just didn’t play the same brand of baseball we’ve been playing all year and we just forgot about it.”
The team is 21-5-1 overall and 13-2 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Leopards are still in first place in the conference, with a one game lead over a red hot Pomona-Pitzer team that swept the Whittier Poets last weekend.
The 2-10 Poets will come to Ben Hines Field to start a three-game series with the Leopards at 3 p.m. Friday, followed by a doubleheader at 11 a.m. Saturday in Whittier.
Aidan Balderas can be reached at email@example.com.