Leopards keep winning streak alive

Sophomore infielder Aidan Salcedo dives back to second base safely in the Leopards’ 8-3 win against the Whittier Poets on Friday afternoon at Ben Hines Field. Salcedo finished the game with one hit, one run and three RBI. / photo by Jonas Holt
Sophomore infielder Aidan Salcedo dives back to second base safely in the Leopards’ 8-3 win against the Whittier Poets on Friday afternoon at Ben Hines Field. Salcedo finished the game with one hit, one run and three RBI. / photo by Jonas Holt

Jack Janes
Sports Editor

Freshman left-handed pitcher Niko Urquidi struck out 11 batters and the Leopards’ offense had two big innings in their 8-3 win over the Whittier Poets on Friday at Ben Hines Field.

Urquidi threw six strong innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits, 11 strikeouts and two walks. The three runs all came in the third inning, when Urquidi hung a breaking ball over the heart of the plate for senior center fielder Lew Rice to hit a three-run home run.

“He really just made one mistake,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “He had a couple runners on and he hung a slider to a guy in about the only place he could get it in the air, and he made him pay. But other than that, he battled and maybe threw a lot of pitches just because they’re swinging and missing so much and he wasn’t getting some early outs like he normally does.”

Offensively, the Leopards got rolling in the bottom of the second inning when sophomore infielder Aidan Salcedo came up to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a bases-clearing triple to open the scoring. Salcedo then got the offense going again in the fourth inning with a lead-off walk and then reached second base because of a slash to first base by sophomore shortstop Ryan Vosika. Graduate student second baseman Anthony Salcedo got a two-strike double to score his younger brother, Aidan, to retake the lead at 4-3. 

“We were just grinders,” Anthony Salcedo said. “We get into 0-2 counts and we pride ourselves in our 2K (two strikes) plan. So just staying in those at-bats regardless and having something for it if it’s over the middle and then spoiling the corners.”

Six out of the Leopards’ 10 hits in the game came in two-strike counts, including Aidan Salcedo’s triple.

The sixth inning was another big one for the Leopards’ offense, as they scored four runs on four hits and got some help from the Poets, who committed three errors in the inning. 

It all started when junior first baseman Noah Garcia laid down a drag bunt and beat the throw to first for a lead-off hit. Garcia advanced to second base on a passed ball and then to third base on a ground out by Aidan Salcedo. 

Garcia scored when Vosika hit a ground ball to Poets junior third baseman Ty Aldridge, who threw the ball too low for senior first baseman Ian Watanabe to handle. Watanabe then threw the ball away trying to get Garcia out at home, allowing Vosika to reach second base.

Junior left fielder Malachi Francois swings against the Whittier Poets on Friday afternoon at Ben Hines Field. Francois, who was just named Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference hitter of the week, finished with one hit and one run in the Leopards’ 8-3 win over the Poets. / photo by Jonas Holt
Junior left fielder Malachi Francois swings against the Whittier Poets on Friday afternoon at Ben Hines Field. Francois, who was just named Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference hitter of the week, finished with one hit and one run in the Leopards’ 8-3 win over the Poets. / photo by Jonas Holt

The next batter, junior left fielder Malachi Francois, hit a line drive to right field and Poets senior right fielder James Stirton dropped the ball, allowing Vosika to score and Francois to reach first base. A single into left field by senior outfielder Matthew Diaz scored Francois.

Junior right fielder Logan Reese got his third hit of the game with a single into right field to advance Diaz to third base. Then, Reese took off early from first base to draw a throw and get in a run down, which allowed Diaz to score from third base for the final run in the inning to make it 8-3 Leopards. 

“Just staying calm, looking for a good pitch to hit and going the other way,” Reese said about his approach at the plate.

Senior right-handed pitcher Austin Klopfenstein began the season as a starter, but has since been moved to the bullpen to be the Leopards’ closer. He got the call into the game with no outs and runners on first and second base in the eighth inning. Klopfenstein struck out the first batter he faced then got back-to-back fly outs to right field to get out of the eighth-inning jam. Then in the ninth inning, Klopfenstein struck out the first batter again, got a fly out to right field, then froze Watanabe on a changeup to strike him out looking and secure the 8-3 win for the Leopards. 

“It’s not really a big adjustment,” Klopfenstein said about his transition to the closing role. “I think your process is fairly similar, but just feeling out situations of the game when you think the team is going to need your arsenal and you just read based on what’s going on in the game and you just be ready to go whenever your name is called.”

The Leopards finished the series the next day with a doubleheader at Whittier, winning both games to complete the sweep in dominating fashion, 26-4 and 12-5, to extend their winning streak to seven games.

The Leopards are now 25-9-1 on the season and 17-4 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

This weekend the Leopards will wrap up the regular season with a three-game slate against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags starting at 3 p.m. Friday at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and finishing with a doubleheader at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday at Ben Hines Field. 

With the Leopards at the top of the SCIAC standings and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in second place, three games behind the Leopards, the Leopards just need one win this weekend to clinch their second consecutive SCIAC regular season championship.

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

Sophomore shortstop Ryan Vosika recovers a blooper into center field and throws home against the Whittier Poets on Friday afternoon at Ben Hines Field. In three at bats on the day, Vosika finished with one walk and one run. / photo by Jonas Holt
Sophomore shortstop Ryan Vosika recovers a blooper into center field and throws home against the Whittier Poets on Friday afternoon at Ben Hines Field. In three at bats on the day, Vosika finished with one walk and one run. / 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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