Baseball dominates Opening Day

Senior pitcher Austin Klopfenstein deals from the mound on Opening Day against the Pacific Lutheran Lutes on Friday at Ben Hines Field. Klopfenstein pitched four innings, giving up two earned runs with two strikeouts and a walk. The Leopards went on to win the first game of the season, 13-3. / photo by Jonas Holt
Senior pitcher Austin Klopfenstein deals from the mound on Opening Day against the Pacific Lutheran Lutes on Friday at Ben Hines Field. Klopfenstein pitched four innings, giving up two earned runs with two strikeouts and a walk. The Leopards went on to win the first game of the season, 13-3. / photo by Jonas Holt

Jack Janes
Sports Editor

After being one win away from a College World Series appearance last year, the No. 23 ranked Leopards kicked off the 2024 season with a 13-3 victory over Pacific Lutheran on Friday at Ben Hines Field.

“This is a big time learning curve, guys want to do well, they want to get off to a good start and sometimes that happens, but the most important thing is how they’re doing it,” head coach Scott Winterburn said.

Senior right-handed pitcher Austin Klopfenstein got the nod for Opening Day and went four innings, giving up two earned runs with two strikeouts and a walk. Klopfenstein worked quickly through the first three innings, going three-up-three-down and only needing 25 pitches to do so. 

“I was really just trusting what pitch was being called and just tried to blow it right through my catcher,” Klopfenstein said. “The defense obviously played phenomenally behind me, so I was just trying to let the offense put the ball in play and let my defense work.”

Junior first baseman Noah Garcia fouls off a ball against the Pacific Lutheran Lutes on Opening Day Friday at Ben Hines Field. Garcia, a second team All-SCIAC selection last season, finished the day with one hit and two runs. The Leopards beat the Lutes in the first game of the season, 13-3. / photo by Jonas Holt

He ran into trouble in the fourth inning because of a leadoff hit by pitch that was followed by a walk. An errant throw on a pick-off attempt moved the runners to second and third, which allowed both to score on a single by Pacific Lutheran senior second baseman Aaron Barber. Klopfenstein responded by getting the next three batters out to get out of the inning and finish his outing. 

Freshman left-handed pitcher Niko Urquidi came in relief to make his college debut and walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, but then proceeded to throw four hitless innings for the Leopards, which is a massive help to the Leopards’ pitching staff with four games in three days over the weekend.

The only run given up by Urquidi was unearned in the eighth inning. It started when he walked Pacific Lutheran junior outfielder Peter King, then sophomore catcher Nathan Perry overthrew a ball to first, making it second and third. A wild pitch allowed King to score.

“The jitters were there, but I got comfortable after the first batter and settled in nice and felt good after that,” Urquidi said.

Offensively, the Leopards were relentless, scoring in every inning from the third inning on. The Leopards did not put up any crooked numbers on the scoreboard, but they consistently tacked on runs.

Graduate student infielder Anthony Salcedo got things started with a seven-pitch walk with one out in the bottom of the third that was followed by a double by his brother, sophomore infielder Aidan Salcedo to make it second and third.

“I was just trying to stay poised as much as I can, stay in my plan, swing at the right pitches, take the ones that I’m not looking for and just get the barrel to the ball,” Aidan Salcedo said. 

Senior outfielder Matthew Diaz singled to right field to score Aidan Salcedo and advance Anthony Salcedo to third, then a passed ball allowed Anthony Salcedo to score. 

Junior outfielder Malachi Francois singled up the middle to lead off the fourth inning and junior outfielder and infielder Jordan Givens advanced Francois to second with a sacrifice bunt, setting up junior outfielder Nolan Anguiano for an RBI single up the middle to score Francois. A wild pitch moved Anguiano to second and a single by sophomore infielder Ryan Vosika made it first and third. Anguiano scored on a safety squeeze by Anthony Salcedo and Vosika then scored on a double by Aidan Salcedo to make it 5-2 Leopards after the fourth inning. 

The Leopards tacked on a run in the fifth thanks to a parade of mistakes, when junior first baseman Noah Garcia was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He advanced to second because of a balk by Pacific Lutheran senior right-handed pitcher Anthony Adams, then to third because of a wild pitch and then scored because of another balk by Adams.

Then in the bottom of the sixth, Aidan Salcedo and Garcia both singled and Perry drew a walk to load the bases with two outs, forcing Pacific Lutheran to make a pitching change to bring in junior right-handed pitcher Stevan Rodriquez. The second pitch that Rodriquez threw was lined down the left field line for a bases-clearing double by junior outfielder and infielder Logan Corthell to take a commanding 9-2 lead.

The Leopards scratched another run across the board in the seventh inning when Anthony Salcedo was hit by a pitch and then scored on a double in the right-center gap by Diaz.

Then in the bottom of the eighth, Perry launched his first home run of the season on the first pitch of the inning to make it 11-3 Leopards. The Leopards scored another two runs in the inning on back-to-back doubles by Givens and Anguiano, then a single by freshman outfielder Jake Ledford. 

“There’s a lot of times where you make a bad play or you make a mistake and you just got to learn to flush it and I think I’ve gotten a lot better at that,” Perry said. “You mess up a play and you just gotta reset and just get back into what the job asks you to do.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Ian Wong came in the ninth inning and pitched a one-two-three frame to close the game out, giving the Leopards a 13-3 win on Opening Day. Six Leopards hitters had multi-hit games with Aidan Salcedo, Diaz, Perry, Givens, Anguiano and Vosika. 

The offensive onslaught continued the whole weekend for the Leopards as they completed the sweep over Pacific Lutheran with 13-5 and 12-4 victories in the doubleheader on Saturday and then a 12-0 win over Whitman on Sunday. The Leopards left Opening Weekend with a 4-0 record. 

The Leopards begin Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play Friday at 2 p.m. at Ben Hines Field against Redlands and then have a doubleheader at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow at Redlands. 

Jack Janes can be reached at jack.janes@laverne.edu.

Sophomore infielder Aidan Salcedo celebrates after an RBI double that extended the Leopards’ lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Pacific Lutheran Lutes on Friday at Ben Hines Field. This would give the Leopards all the momentum on Opening Day as they would go on to beat the Lutes, 13-3. / photo by Jonas Holt

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.

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.

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