The La Verne baseball team celebrated on the field in Claremont on Saturday afternoon after winning two out of three from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in their weekend series to clinch the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season title.
The first place Leopards began the series against the second place Stags at Ben Hines Field on May 5, winning 9-4 and celebrating eight seniors on their senior day.
“I know it was senior day, but this was a big game for all of us,” senior left fielder Luke Garcia said. “I just wanted to do my best for us.”
The series continued at Bill Arce Field in Claremont on Saturday, where the Leopards lost the first game of their doubleheader, 4-2, but were able to hunt down the Stags in game two, winning 10-4 and securing the title.
Coming in with a 4-1 record and 4.74 ERA, sophomore pitcher Ethan Galindo was handed the ball to open the series.
The Leopards came out swinging in the bottom of the first inning when senior center fielder Cameron Slessor and freshman catcher Nathan Perry hit back to back singles off of CMS senior pitcher Jarrett Korson.
Sophomore first baseman Noah Garcia hit a double down the left field line, scoring Slessor and advancing Perry to third base. Sophomore designated hitter Malachi Francois reached first base on an error by junior shortstop Tyler Shaw. This error allowed both runners to score and gave the Leopards an early 3-0 lead.
La Verne extended their lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the second inning when senior second baseman Chase Siffert brought in Luke Garcia, who had tripled in his previous at-bat.
In the bottom of the sixth, freshman third baseman Aiden Salcedo made the score 6-0 for La Verne when he singled up the middle, knocking in Francois, who had singled, and sophomore right fielder Logan Reese, who reached base via walk.
CMS freshman pitcher Ethan Chen relieved Korson to begin the bottom of the seventh inning. Chen gave up a single to Perry and walked Noah Garcia. Francois hit an RBI single to right field, scoring Perry and extending the Leopards’ lead to 7-0.
Chen was relieved by junior pitcher Pieter van Wingerden. With Garcia on third base, freshman shortstop Ryan Vosika hit an RBI single to center field, giving the Leopards the lead by eight.
Senior pitcher Ryan McLernon relieved Galindo in the top of the eighth inning after an error by Salcedo and a double from CMS junior first baseman Julian Sanders allowed the Stags to get on the scoreboard.
CMS scored three runs on two hits and the error in the top of the eighth, but La Verne still led by five runs.
Perry racked up his third hit of the day and gave La Verne an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning when he hit a double to right center field, scoring Siffert who had been walked by Wingerden.
“We won every pitch today,” Perry said.
Mclernon headed to the mound in the top of the ninth, but was relieved by junior pitcher Ian Wong after Vosika made an error allowing senior catcher William Deforest to reach first base and gave up a single to junior shortstop Mitchell Mashiko.
The Stags were able to get another run across home plate when freshman pinch hitter Bryce Didrickson hit a sacrifice fly, allowing junior catcher Trishan Amruther, who pinch ran for DeForest, to score.
Wong closed out the game by getting sophomore second baseman Jack Potter to pop out to first base, making the 9-4 win official.
“Guys get a little nervous for these types of games,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “The fact that we pushed those runs across in the first few innings helped us relax a bit.”
Galindo picked up his fifth win of the season, pitching 7.1 innings, giving up six hits and allowing one earned run.
“Getting those insurance runs in the beginning helped my mind a lot,” Galindo said. “It was a grind every inning today.”
The Leopards hosted the first round of the SCIAC tournament on Thursday against Cal Lutheran Kingsmen at Ben Hines Field.
Sydney Ferris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.