Sarah Van Buskirk
After coming out of a rough start to the weekend series, the La Verne baseball team jumped on an early lead in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Ben Hines Field, eventually outscoring the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, 11-4.
The Leopards lost the first two games of the series, 5-4 on Friday and 14-3 in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader.
In the final game, freshman pitcher Bennett Vogel established himself on the mound, pitching seven innings to give himself a record of 4-0 and a 1.70 ERA.
“The offense took a big role in the game getting out to an early lead for us,” Vogel said. “It’s always nice for a pitcher to have your offense get you a big lead because it makes our job a lot easier.”
The Leopards got off to a hot start in the first inning. With two outs, junior right fielder Brandon Shiota hit a single to left field, bringing senior left fielder Jacob Barriga home from third base.
Sophomore third baseman Cameron Slessor followed with an RBI double, driving in Shiota.
“This game we really focused on waiting for our pitch and getting quality at-bats throughout the game,” Slessor said.
For the final runs of the inning, sophomore catcher Manuel Munoz knocked a two-run RBI single into the middle, pushing freshman designated hitter Malachi Francois and Slessor to home plate.
The Leopards led 4-0 going into the second inning.
In the second inning, the Sagehens got a run on a fielding error by Vogel, but weren’t able to put together any more offense. The Leopards then stepped up to give another exciting inning.
Shiota, Slessor and Munoz were yet again the stars of the inning as they rallied in four RBIs with two outs, along with an additional run on a wild pitch by Sagehen freshman pitcher Ethan Collins. The Leopards then led, 9-1.
The Sagehens’ offense woke up in the third inning when senior designated hitter Kevin Lo hit a three run home run to close the gap and make the score 9-4. Lo was the Sagehens’ only scorer of the game.
“We put a lot of pressure on Pomona-Pitzer and I think that made them fold rather quickly,” Shiota said. “We were able to turn our at-bats around from the previous games and apply pressure to their pitchers.”
Both teams went quiet for the following three innings until the seventh inning rolled around. Barriga rattled an RBI double down the line, bringing home junior shortstop Anthony Salcedo, who pinch ran for junior pinch hitter John Bike.
At the next at-bat, sophomore second baseman Chase Siffert drove in the final run of the game with an RBI single which scored Barriga. The Leopards led 11-4.
In the top of the eighth inning, sophomore pitcher Nick Zolferino relieved Vogel at the mound to close out the game. Zolferino held the Sagehens scoreless the rest of the way on just one hit.
“It was two ranked teams going against each other, so we knew it was going to be a big series,” Siffert said. “After the second game we knew we couldn’t win the series so we fought to take one of the games.”
Despite dropping the series, the Leopards still remain in the No. 1 seed of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 17-4 record. Pomona-Pitzer trails behind in the No. 2 spot with Chapman right behind them in third.
The Leopards’ final conference series of the regular season will be against Chapman starting May 6. However, before that, the Leopards will finish out their April games in Washington as they travel to play the Whitman Blues and the Whitworth Pirates starting Friday.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.