With the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title under its belt and a season filled with more ups than downs, the La Verne baseball team traveled to Abilene, Texas, this week to participate in the NCAA Division III West Regional Tournament.
La Verne kept its hopes alive with a huge 11-6 win, eliminating No. 2-seeded George Fox yesterday.
George Fox got on the scoreboard first in the second inning with two runs.
La Verne answered back with senior designated hitter Scott Marcus’ home run to right center field scoring sophomore left fielder Jason Munoz and senior short stop Jack Mehl to bring the Leopards within one run.
La Verne took a 4-5 lead over George Fox in the fifth inning and never looked back.
The Leopards’ offense stayed hot collecting four more runs in the sixth and two in the eighth to solidify the victory.
Five errors committed by the Bruins proved to be costly in the outcome of the game.
George Fox was not able to catch up to La Verne and their bats were left silent up until a two-run eighth inning that was just not enough to bring them within reach of the lead.
The Leopards opened up the regional on Wednesday as the No. 6 overall seed against a familiar foe in No. 1 seeded Chapman at Walt Driggers Field at McMurry University.
La Verne dropped the opener, 4-3, after battling back from a three-run deficit in the first inning.
Sophomore pitcher Tim Jolly, a First Team All-SCIAC selection, pitched a complete game and allowed only one run after a letdown in the first.
Chapman, who won the NCAA Division III title in 2003, entered the regional with a 35-3 record and was highly ranked the entire season.
The Panthers beat La Verne three times in the regular season; however the Leopards went to Texas with an eight game winning streak jumping from third to first place in the last two weeks of the season.
The Leopards took with them the 2008 SCIAC Player of the Year, Marcus, who finished the regular season with a .375 batting average, 13 home runs and 62 RBIs.
“It’s very rewarding,” Marcus said. “I’ve done pretty well individually but what I really tried to do all season was be a leader and I think I did a good job. As a team we’re completely confident. Everything is clicking and we’re ready to play our best baseball in Texas.”
“Basically it felt like our backs were against the wall most of the season,” Mehl said. “To win eight in a row and win conference the way we did was incredible. Looking back I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Mehl, the lead-off batter for most of the season, led La Verne with a .369 batting average while collecting 62 hits and was also named First Team All-SCIAC.
“This season was really special,” senior pitcher Ryan Rose said. “We put it all together in the last three weeks and stepped up. Each series we had was like a playoff scenario and we were able to overcome it and come out on top. I know we’re ready.”
La Verne has not been to the NCAA Division III championship since 1995.
ULV’s next opponent will be the winner of the game between Trinity and Cal State East Bay played after press time yesterday.
Richard Lugo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.