Baseball clinches SCIAC title

Senior catcher Jacob Guttierez celebrates senior day with his mother and with assistant coaches Justin Duarte and Mason Stoltenberg on Saturday at Ben Hines Field. The Leopards went on to win against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags and clinch the SCIAC regular season title for the second consecutive year. / photo by Jonas Holt
Senior catcher Jacob Guttierez celebrates senior day with his mother and with assistant coaches Justin Duarte and Mason Stoltenberg on Saturday at Ben Hines Field. The Leopards went on to win against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags and clinch the SCIAC regular season title for the second consecutive year. / photo by Jonas Holt

Jack Janes
Sports Editor 

With a 9-5 win over the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday at Ben Hines Field, the Leopards clinched the regular season Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship with a 18-6 conference record. This is the first time since 2004 and 2005 that the Leopards have won back-to-back regular season SCIAC titles.

It means a lot,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “When you start off each year, the No. 1 goal is to try and compete for the conference championship, so anytime that you’re in it late and you have a chance to compete for the conference championship, it’s accomplishing a goal that’s really hard because this conference is just so tough.”

It was also Senior Day for the Leopards as they celebrated the 12 seniors on the team with a pregame ceremony. Each senior walked onto the field with their families and lined up for a group photo.

The scoring started in the bottom of the first inning when senior outfielder Matthew Diaz got a two-strike double down the left field line to score graduate student second baseman Anthony Salcedo from first base to take an early 1-0 lead.

Graduate student pitcher Gerald Terry deals from the mound against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags on Saturday morning at Ben Hines Field. The 2023 SCIAC pitcher of the year would only go 2.1 innings before leaving with a hamstring injury. The Leopards won the game, 9-5, to clinch the SCIAC regular season title once again. / photo by Jonas Holt

On the mound for the Leopards was graduate student right-handed pitcher Gerald Terry, who pitched 2.1 shut-out innings before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. After the injury, Winterburn called his team in for a meeting before the game resumed.

“Now’s not the time to hang our heads, now’s the time to pull together for him, pick up the slack,” Winterburn said about the team meeting. “Everybody’s got to do a little extra and everyone’s got to have their head screwed on right.”

Senior left-handed pitcher Chase Pederson came in after the injury and pitched a clean third and fourth inning.

The Leopards’ offense kept rolling though, scoring two runs in the third inning from a single from junior designated hitter Nolan Anguiano that scored Diaz and moved junior outfielder Logan Reese to third. Then, junior first baseman Noah Garcia hit a line drive to center field for a hit to score Reese to extend the lead to 3-0. 

Diaz again came up big for the Leopards in the fourth inning with another two-strike hit when he poked one into right field to score Salcedo and junior outfielder Malachi Francois to make it 5-0. Diaz finished the game 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI.

The Stags got on the board in the fifth inning when sophomore outfielder Blaise Hehir sent one over the left field fence for a solo home run.

The Leopards responded right away in the bottom half of the fifth inning when Francois drove a ball off the top of the wall in right-center field for an RBI triple. Francois then scored on a single through the right side by Salcedo to make it a 7-1 ballgame.

“I think just keeping a good headspace and trying to stay in a good process,” Francois said. “Just trying to work hard throughout the week so the game time can come a little easier.”

In the sixth inning, the Stags started to build a rally and scored a pair of runs when sophomore outfielder Bryce Didrickson reached on an error by Salcedo that scored a run and then Hehir hit a sacrifice fly the very next at bat to score another to cut the Leopards’ lead to 7-3.

Things got interesting in the seventh inning when the Stags loaded the bases with one out. Graduate student catcher Adam Dapkewicz hit a sacrifice fly to score a run and then freshman third baseman Rider Gordon reached on an error by La Verne sophomore third baseman Aidan Salcedo to score another to make it a 7-5 game. 

Senior center fielder Matt Diaz slides into home plate following a single by junior outfielder Nolan Anguiano to give the Leopards a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning Saturday at Ben Hines Field. Diaz had a monster game, grabbing four hits and three RBI to help the Leopards get the victory against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags and win the SCIAC regular season title. / photo by Jonas Holt

Senior right-handed pitcher Austin Klopfenstein came into the game in the eighth inning and found himself in a jam quickly. After hitting the first and walking the second batter he faced and an error by sophomore shortstop Ryan Vosika, Klopfenstein quickly had bases loaded and nobody out. Klopfenstein proceeded to strike out the next two batters and force a ground out to escape the bases loaded jam with no runs given up.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Leopards tacked on a couple of runs on a two-out rally. After the first two batters of the inning got out, Garcia singled into right field and junior catcher Matt Rice tripled down the right field line to score Garcia. An error by senior shortstop Tyler Shaw scored Rice and the Leopards extended their lead to 9-5.

Klopfenstein pitched a one-two-three inning in the ninth to secure the 9-5 victory for the Leopards, and the regular season SCIAC championship.

“I don’t think we’re playing to the fullest that we can yet, but I know we’re close and once the guys come together, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Klopfenstein said. “So that’s the exciting part because we got a lot of room to grow and we’re going to be pushing for that this week.”

Although they won this game to clinch, the Leopards lost the series against the Stags with a 7-6 loss on Friday at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and a loss in the second game of the doubleheader, 12-10.

The Leopards finish the regular season 26-11-1 overall and 18-6 in SCIAC play. With the SCIAC regular season championship, the Leopards will host the SCIAC Championship Tournament this weekend.

“We know we have what it takes, now we just have to leave it on the field,” Diaz said. 

The first game of the tournament for the Leopards was at 3 p.m. Thursday at Ben Hines Field against Cal Lutheran.

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

Senior catcher Manuel Munoz walks out with his family and friends as the Leopards celebrate senior day on Saturday at Ben Hines Field. The Leopards took one out of three games against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags to clinch the SCIAC regular season title. / 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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