The University of La Verne baseball team defended its Southern California Athletic Conference Title in dramatic fashion last Sunday afternoon at Ben Hines Field.
The Leopards (30-11, 18-6 SCIAC) defeated Cal Lutheran in a 9-7 come from behind victory to claim its 18th overall SCIAC title on the final day of the season.
Kyle Johnson’s eighth inning, three-run home run helped the Leopards overcome a 7-4 Cal Lu lead.
Lucas Berry started the rally in the eighth as he walked, followed by Ryan Holmes who reached on an error.
Jason Jarvis followed with a single that advanced Berry to third and Holmes to second.
After a fly ball to left field, La Verne catcher B.J. DuBarry attempts to hold off Billy Haynes of Cal Lu sliding into home plate. Haynes was called safe when DuBarry dropped the ball, which moved the Kingsmen further ahead of the Leopards in the sixth inning. The match ended with a 9-7 win for La Verne and a second consecutive SCIAC title. The victory marks ULV’s 18th claim to the title.
B.J. DuBarry managed to reach on a two-out error by Cal Lu third baseman Christian Harriot, which scored Berry and Holmes and moved Jarvis to third.
With the lead cut to 7-6 and two runners on, Johnson placed a pitch over the left field fence to give the Leopards the lead, and seal the victory.
La Verne was leading 4-3 after three innings of play, but surrendered two runs in the fourth and sixth innings to the Kingsmen and trailed, 7-4.
Johnson finished the game 2-for-4 with four RBIs, three coming off of his eighth inning home run. Jarvis was the only other Leopard with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 and scoring three runs.
Scott Lindeen went all nine innings for the Leopards, giving up 12 hits and five earned runs but was able to strike out seven in his ninth win of the year.
Despite claiming the SCIAC championship, things didn’t look so bright for La Verne on Friday, after losing an 11-inning match-up against Redlands, 9-7, at Ben Hines Field.
“On Friday we let a golden opportunity slip through our hands,” head coach Scott Winterburn said. “We had so many chances and left a lot of guys on base late in the game.”
DuBarry was one bright spot for La Verne, going 4-for-6 with a home run.
His effort earned him SCIAC athlete of the week honors.
Ryan Holmes also added a two-run home run for the Leopards.
“If we had beaten Redlands it would have sealed the deal,” DuBarry said. “The loss was like salt on an open wound. It made the game on Sunday mean a lot more. It was for all the marbles, and we had to earn it.”
At the time the Leopards held a one game lead over the Kingsmen in the SCIAC standings.
To the Leopards’ advantage, Cal Lu dropped an 8-2 decision to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on the same day to keep La Verne’s lead in the standings on lock.
“We didn’t know that Ca Lu lost at the time and we felt that we blew a chance to outright clinch the title,” Jarvis said. “When we found out that they lost, it was a sigh of relief.”
If Cal Lu managed to defeat La Verne on Sunday, it would have forced a one game play-off to decide the conference title.
With the SCIAC title in their possession, La Verne receives an automatic bid to the Western Regional playoffs.
Set to begin May 19, the site will not be determined until the remaining conference championships in the region are decided.
The Leopards hope the momentum from Sunday’s game carries over the two-week break, but some much needed rest won’t hurt.
“This year we have some guys that need some rest,” Winterburn said. “B.J. has caught every game this year and Jarvis has been pretty banged up. Bockstahler is still battling back from his elbow injury as well.”
“I don’t think it will affect our momentum,” DuBarry said. “Winterburn has some inter-squad’s (scrimmages) planned for us. We’re going to stay sharp and on pace.”
La Verne was a regional finalist last year before losing to eventual national champion George Fox University of Oregon. The eight regional champions will compete for the Division III Championship, which will be held in Appleton, Wisc., May 27–31.
Joseph Lovallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.