The La Verne baseball team swept its way through the Bud Knight Memorial Invitational Tournament last weekend in Walla Walla, Washington, highlighted by a significant comeback win against the Whitman Blues, 12-10, after a rain delay Saturday at Borleske Stadium.
The Leopards also beat Whitman, 12-8, Friday and took two games from the Whitworth Pirates – 12-2 on Saturday and 6-4 on Sunday.
In Saturday’s comeback over Whitman, sophomore pitcher Nick Zolferino took the mound for the Leopards in what was a quick outing. He only pitched one inning allowing two runners to score off four singles. Zolferino was flawless against the Pirates earlier in the day, pitching two innings of scoreless relief.
The Leopards offense responded quickly in the second inning against the Blues with a run of their own on a sacrifice fly from freshman left fielder Logan Reese to score junior first baseman John Bike and make it a 2-1 ball game.
The Leopards put in freshman pitcher Bennett Vogel for the second inning but that did not stop the Blues. They continued to slug base hits to widen their lead to 4-1. Right when the Leopards thought things could not get any worse, Vogel allowed a three run shot to junior first baseman Teague Conder to make it a 7-1 ball game.
The Leopards refused to give in and responded immediately in the third inning. Bike continued to contribute, getting an RBI on a fielder’s choice. Junior catcher Christian Killian singled, scoring sophomore third baseman Cameron Slessor. The Leopards went on to have a four run inning to tighten the deficit to 7-5.
In the bottom of the fourth the Leopards’ offense made a demanding statement. Bike’s two-run double made the score 8-7, nearly erasing the six-run deficit from the second inning.
A rain delay followed immediately after the comeback started which forced the game to resume Sunday morning.
During Sunday’s fifth inning the Leopards’ offense continued right where it left off. Sophomore shortstop Cole McCollum singled and scored Reese that tied the ball game 8-8.
In the sixth inning the Blues made it interesting by scoring a run to retake the lead, 9-8. The Leopards’ offense looked to finish this game once and for all. With runners in scoring position, a wild pitch by Blues freshman Jeff Hostetler brought in Leopard sophomore designated hitter Luke Garcia to tie it again 9-9. Sophomore catcher Manuel Munoz then reached on an error by Blues sophomore third baseman Beck Maguire, which scored Slessor. Junior center fielder Drew Reddick reached on a fielder’s choice which scored two, putting the nail in the coffin for the Blues that gave the Leopard the 12-9 lead.
The game was called after eight innings to give the Leopards a 12-10 win.
“It was a slow start at first but once we got the ball rolling it was over from there,” sophomore shortstop Anthony Salcedo said. “Right now we are just trying to stay hot focusing on this next series against Chapman and carrying on that energy through the post season. All our guys want to keep things firing on all cylinders and take it home for La Verne.”
The Leopards are 29-7-1 overall and 17-4 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
They open their final series of the season against Chapman at 3 p.m. Friday at Ben Hines Field, then host a doubleheader against the Panthers at 11 a.m. Saturday at W.O. Hart Park in Orange.
Aidan Balderas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.