Sarah Van Buskirk
With the No. 1 seed in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the La Verne baseball team will now advance to the first round of playoffs against the No. 4 Cal Lutheran Kingsmen on Thursday at Ben Hines Field after clinching the 2023 SCIAC regular season championship with a 2-1 series win against the second place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this past weekend.
The Leopards end the regular season with a 20-4 conference record and 27-13 overall.
“The goal for us every year is to win the conference, that is the No. 1 goal and of course there are main objectives along the way,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “We have really had to play as a team this year and it’s more of ‘Hey, who’s going to be the hero this week?’ and we have had quite a few heroes from week to week so it has definitely been a team effort.”
Their journey started off slow in February, as the team could not find a consistent win-loss ratio, flip-flopping each game they played to either in their favor or out of luck, barely making .500 for a few weeks.
At the end of March and the beginning of April, the Leopards settled in and rattled off a 10-game win streak that bolstered their spot in the conference standings. From then on out, La Verne has been dominant and looks to continue that power into the playoffs and hopefully toward Regionals.
The four teams competing in this weekend’s playoff tournament are ULV, CMS, Chapman and Cal Lutheran. The entirety of the Leopards’ weekend contention will be hosted at Ben Hines Field.
The last time the Leopards won the SCIAC Championships was in 2018, and they are hungry to gain another title, especially with home field advantage. This is also the second year in a row the Leopards competed in the last weekend of regular season play for the conference title. They fell short last year against Chapman, but this year’s team has meshed together well and their confidence continues to rise.
Graduate student pitcher Gerry Terry, who has a good outlook of finishing as an All-Conference player, helped the team with a 9-4 record and 2.12 ERA, the lowest of his career. Launching a career high of 104 strikeouts, Terry has been dependable as a starting pitcher this season.
“I had some talks with some pitchers on staff, and we have a ‘man on a mission’ motto that we use and say a lot,” Terry said. “We really focused on the mental side and the preparation which has definitely helped us get to where we are now.”
Sophomore first baseman Noah Garcia has made big impacts this season after transferring from Willamette.
Garcia totaled 54 hits, 39 runs and three home runs, which led to a .388 batting average, .479 on-base percentage, and .576 slugging percentage.
“We have played all these teams before so there are no secrets,” Garcia said. “We are prepared and if we continue to play our game and continue to be tough I think we will be alright.”
Junior shortstop Anthony Salcedo aided the team’s success with 25 hits, 20 runs, and 17 RBIs, that allowed him a .281 batting average, .413 on-base percentage, and a .337 slugging percentage.
“Something we have realized more recently is finding who we are as a team and I feel like we are slowly getting closer to that,” Salcedo said. “Every individual person is finding out what we need to do specifically to help our team win and finding out what we do best as we apply it to the next coming games.”
The Leopards began play against the Kingsmen on Thursday afternoon and if they advance will sanction the rest of the tournament today at 3 p.m. If ULV progresses further, they will play tomorrow at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. A game on Sunday will be reserved if needed.
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.