Sarah Van Buskirk
The La Verne baseball team pounced on a 2-1 series win against the Linfield Wildcats as they finished out the weekend in a 4-2 victory Saturday afternoon at Ben Hines Field.
The determination within the Leopards began Feb. 9 as they welcomed the Wildcats in from McMinnville, Oregon, with an impressive 16-5 win coming from an 11-run eighth inning outburst.
On Friday, La Verne almost made a comeback but was trumped by Linfield in a close 9-8 loss.
“This weekend was really about seeing who we have, putting them in some spots and seeing who can come up big and who needs some work,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “We found all that out and so it was really about playing our whole team.”
The third game of the series did not start out promising for the Leopards, as graduate student pitcher Gerald Terry gave up a home run to the second batter in the order, junior shortstop Jake Hoskins. Though the Wildcats gained a head start on a lead, that did not bring down the energy surrounding the mound as Terry produced six strikeouts in five innings to gain a win. He now has a 1-1 record and dropped his ERA to 1.80.
“We had some opportunities to win yesterday, but that’s baseball,” Terry said. “I think we came back and did really good today when we realized we could do it when we stick to our plan and approach and just do what we know we can do.”
In the top of the third inning, Linfield loaded the bases with two outs, and Winterburn made his first trip to the mound. After a quick consultation with the infield, Terry stayed strong and the next batter popped out to end the half inning and relieve the pressure on the Leopards.
That risky behavior sparked motivation for the Leopards in the bottom of the third inning as they worked Wildcats senior pitcher Andrew Del Biaggio. He walked junior pitcher Chase Pederson, then junior catcher Manuel Munoz placed a perfect sacrifice bunt in the shallow infield to push Pederson to second base. Sophomore center fielder Benny Vogel, who has been clutching up for the Leopards both on the mound and in the batter’s box, stepped up to the plate and, on a 3-1 count, sent the ball up the middle for an RBI-single to tie the game at 1-1.
Vogel said trust amongst the team is a big reason the Leopards were able to gain a lead change.
“We did our best job to throw over the plate and let our defense work,” Vogel said. “And trusting the hitters by not getting too aggressive and getting a pitch in our zone, getting a swing on it, and hitting it hard.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Leopard sophomore first baseman Noah Garcia smacked it over the fences and put La Verne in the lead, 2-1.
Vogel came in to relieve Terry in the top of the sixth inning and was immediately faced with trouble. Although Vogel got two strikeouts, he gave up two hits to put runners on first and third base. Winterburn made his second visit to the mound, and after a quick chat, Vogel hung in there as the Wildcats grounded out to end the half inning and release La Verne from the jam.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Vogel continued his hot streak and opened it up with a hit to centerfield. After an error by the outfield, Vogel was safe at first base. Freshman second baseman Ryan Vosika strategized with a sacrifice bunt to move Vogel to third base. With a man in scoring position, junior shortstop Anthony Salcedo ripped an RBI single on his first pitch to extend the Leopards’ lead to 3-1.
The pursuit did not stop there as Garcia sliced one down the middle to put men on first and third. However, a wild throw by Linfield allowed Salcedo to reach home plate and broaden their lead to 4-1.
“A lot of the time, we are trying to be ahead of the game, and it’s really important to stay in the moment,” Salcedo said. “I was talking to my coaches and teammates to make sure I was staying simple, and then seeing the first pitch, a fastball, and being on it was most important.”
The top of the seventh inning ignited some flame in the Wildcats’ eyes when Hoskins walked and junior right fielder Bodey Smith clutched up for Linfield with an RBI single to close in their deficit, 4-2.
The fire just could not stay alive for the Wildcats, who could not produce any more runs and finished the game in the top of the ninth inning after a pop fly to give the Leopards the 4-2 win.
La Verne is now 2-2 overall with the hopes of improving their record this weekend as they fly to Georgia to participate in the Piedmont Tournament, where they will face Piedmont at 1 p.m. Friday, Wilmington at 9 a.m. Saturday and Lynchburg at 7 a.m. Sunday.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.
Sarah Van Buskirk is a junior journalism major and the 2022-2023 editor-in-chief of the Campus Times. She has previously served as sports editor and staff writer.