Leopards bounce back in Opening Day doubleheader

Graduate student shortstop Taylor Gray makes the throw to graduate student first baseman Marissa Acosta to record the out in the second game of the opening day doubleheader Sunday at Campus West. The Leopards won the second game, 7-5, over Whitworth. / photo by Jack Janes
Graduate student shortstop Taylor Gray makes the throw to graduate student first baseman Marissa Acosta to record the out in the second game of the opening day doubleheader Sunday at Campus West. The Leopards won the second game, 7-5, over Whitworth. / photo by Jack Janes

Jonas Holt
Staff Writer

In a doubleheader matchup at Campus West on Sunday, La Verne faced off against the Whitworth Pirates, marking the debut of the Leopards’ new head coach, Tara Anaya. 

The Leopards, looking to bounce back after a tough 7-0 loss in the first game, displayed resilience and determination as they claimed victory in the second game, 7-5.

“We’re going to work hard this year, we’ve been working so hard since the fall and we’re ready to battle and have a lot of great games,” junior infielder Erika Garcia said. “We have a lot of high expectations and expect to win this year.”

The first game saw the Leopards struggling to find their rhythm, with the Pirates dominating the field. However, Anaya remained optimistic despite the initial setback. 

“Coming out in the first game of the doubleheader, with it being our home opener, there were some jitters and some kinks that we’ll still have to work out,” Anaya said. “The second game we made adjustments way quicker, we knew what we needed to do, we were able to execute way quicker in the second game rather than the first, which ultimately gave us the victory.” 

The Leopards wasted no time making their presence felt in the second game. 

Junior left fielder and leadoff hitter Sydney Diaz kickstarted the bottom of the first inning with a walk, which was followed by a stolen base, setting the stage for a big inning by the Leopards.

Garcia’s line drive over the head of Whitworth senior shortstop Jazz Johnson advanced Diaz to third base, while junior center fielder Ashley Rodriguez capitalized on an error by Pirates’ junior first baseman Taylor Hofheins to bring in the first run of the game.

Graduate student first baseman Marissa Acosta celebrates at the Leopards’ dugout after her RBI single where she advanced to second base on the throw to the plate in the sixth inning of the second game of the Leopards’ opening day doubleheader Sunday at Campus West. The Leopards lost the first game, 7-0, but won the second game, 7-5 over Whitworth. / photo by Jack Janes

“I was just trying to calm myself down, I was just trying to look at more pitches, find a good pitch to hit and hit the ball hard,” said Garcia, who went 2-for-4 at the plate in the win.

The Pirates’ errors in the early innings proved costly, as a wild pitch allowed Garcia to score, followed by a hard grounder to the shortstop from junior catcher Alyssa Campbell, extending the lead to 3-0 in favor of the Leopards.  

Junior pitcher Kirstin Sanchez, in her first game as a Leopard, showcased her prowess on the mound, allowing no hits through four innings. Despite minor hits in the later innings from the Pirates, Sanchez remained composed, striking out one batter and getting the Pirates to ground out and fly out.

“My mindset on the mound was just to shove and keep shoving, trust my defense, trust my catcher, and trust my coaches,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t have many jitters compared to others on the team, I just put my trust in God and me. Our trust in each other helped us settle down a bit, and just trusting the process.”

The Pirates fought back in the fifth inning, securing their first hit of the game and capitalizing on consecutive hits to narrow the gap to 4-3.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Leopards seized control of the game, extending their lead with strategic plays and clutch hits. A squeeze bunt by Rodriguez and a timely single into right field from graduate student first baseman Marissa Acosta bolstered their lead to 7-3, putting them in a commanding position heading into the final inning. 

The Leopards got two quick outs in the top of the seventh inning to be one out away from victory, but the Pirates were not done yet as they scored two more runs to make the game interesting. Ultimately, their efforts were not enough as Rodriguez caught the final out on a fly ball to center field. 

“Being a center fielder, I feel like I can read it well off the bat,” said Rodriguez, who had multiple spectacular plays to help the Leopards. “Going all out for my teammates is the biggest thing to me, they trust me out there and I have to trust them.”

With the split in the doubleheader, the La Verne Leopards now stand at 1-1 for the season. Looking ahead, the team is gearing up for more doubleheaders at noon and 2 p.m.  Saturday at Campus West against Pacific Lutheran and at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday at Campus West against York College.

“We expect to win, we want to have a winning season,” Rodriguez said. “Coach T (Anaya) is doing great right now, and we’re doing it for her and putting our faith in what matters most.”

Jonas Holt can be reached at jonas.holt@laverne.edu.

Junior infielder Erika Garcia fouls off a pitch in the second game of Leopards’ opening day doubleheader Sunday at Campus West. The Leopards went on to win, 7-5, over Whitworth. / photo by Jack Janes

Jonas Holt is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. He is a staff writer and staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine.

Jack Janes, a senior journalism major, is sports editor of the Campus Times and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine. He is also a staff photographer for both publications. He previously served as a Campus Times staff writer.

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