Late-inning runs cost Leopards in second game

Junior infielder Erika Garcia dings the ball into center field as the La Verne softball team goes up 3-0 against Redlands in the first inning of the second game of their doubleheader Saturday at Campus West. The Bulldogs came back to defeat the Leopards, 6-5. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez
Junior infielder Erika Garcia dings the ball into center field as the La Verne softball team goes up 3-0 against Redlands in the first inning of the second game of their doubleheader Saturday at Campus West. The Bulldogs came back to defeat the Leopards, 6-5. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez

Michael Roccia
Staff Writer

The Leopards narrowly lost the second game of their doubleheader, against the Redlands Bulldogs on Saturday at Campus West, 6-5.

The first game of the doubleheader turned into a hard fought win for the Leopards as they put together an impressive victory against the highly touted Bulldogs, who sit at the top of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Leopards were down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning when the team then surged for four runs that turned the game on its head and resulted in them taking the first game, 5-3.

The Leopards were hoping it would be more of the same as they headed into game two of the doubleheader looking to steal both games from the Bulldogs. The team started off strong as they scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning to go up, 3-0.

Sophomore infielder Cassandra Zapata slides home during the Leopards’ comeback against the Redlands Bulldogs on Saturday at Campus West. In the first game of the doubleheader, La Verne scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to win, 5-3. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez

The scoring was capped off by sophomore second baseman Cassandra Zapata. She singled to right field and advanced sophomore infielder Isabella Garcia home. She knew Redlands had good pitchers and wanted to be ready for anything.

“I knew they were going to work me both in and out…So I just knew I needed to be ready for anything,” Zapata said. “I would usually adjust each pitch. I knew if I was hitting the inside pitch well, they were going to pitch me out.”

The good times did not last for long however, as the Bulldogs came right back with two runs of their own in the top of the second. Sophomore pitcher Katlyn Gandara then hit a solo shot home run for the Bulldogs in the top of the third to tie the game at 3-3.

Zapata once again stepped up to the plate and came through for the Leopards. In the bottom of the third inning, she hit the ball up the third base line and it squeaked into the outfield. It was hit well enough to allow junior outfielder Ashley Rodriguez on second base to sprint home. Rodriguez barely avoided the tag to help La Verne retake a lead, 4-3.

Head coach Tara Anaya certainly took note of Zapata’s great play on the field on Saturday and credits her with helping the team play so fiercely against a tough opponent.

“She knows how to get the job done and keep it simple,” Anaya said. “She just had an amazing day, both at the plate and on defense.”

The Bulldogs were not going down without a fight however, as they tied the game once more in the top of the sixth inning to make it 4-4. Heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Leopards found themselves in an ideal scenario. 

They had the bases loaded with only one out and a chance to take the lead going into the final inning. Junior outfielder Sydney Diaz cracked a hard hit ball off of her bat and it headed right for Bulldogs freshman first baseman Leila Jackson, who juggled the ball and lost it in her feet. Diaz made it to first safely because of the error and graduate student infielder Marissa Acosta scored to take the lead, 5-4.

Acosta said she and her teammates came into the game ready to prove themselves.

“Honestly, I feel like they kind of saw us as like an underdog and that they were going to kind of roll all over us,” Acosta said. “We just came into this game and battled. We thought whatever happens, happens, but we’re just going to go out there and compete.”

Heading into the seventh inning, the Leopards had victory on their minds and almost in their grasp. However, in an instance, it seemed the tides turned. 

Redlands loaded the bases with no outs and junior outfielder Paige Messenlehner hit a sacrifice fly to right field, which brought a runner home to tie the game at 5-5. Right after, Leopards junior catcher Alyssa Campbell was unable to block a pitch and the Bulldogs easily scored to take the lead on a passed ball, 6-5. And that is all she wrote.

After a stinging loss, Anaya said that the team needs to learn how to be calm in these big moments and not let the pressure get the best of them.

“We have to be able to play routine softball and not let the game get bigger than it needs to be,” Anaya said. “We knew these games were going to be close, but it’s just about not pressing and just taking our time playing softball one-on-one.”

Graduate student infielder Taylor Gray believes that they showed a lot of heart on the field in these two games and are going to bounce back stronger.

“We could beat anybody on any given day,” Gray said. “I feel like we’re going to bounce back perfectly fine. We know what we are capable of and we were underneath their skin the entire time, so I feel like we’ve got it in the bag.”

Michael Roccia can be reached at michael.roccia@laverne.edu.

La Verne junior infielder Erika Garcia dodges a wild pitch in the fifth inning of the first game against Redlands on Saturday at Campus West. The Leopards won the game, 5-3, but lost game two to the Bulldogs, 6-5. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez

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