Softball ended its season Saturday with a 4-2 loss to the University of Texas at Tyler in the NCAA Division III West Regionals in Tyler, Texas, leaving the Leopards with an overall season record of 28-19.
La Verne was the No. 7 seed and earned the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by claiming the first-ever Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship.
The second seeded Patriots came in with an impressive 43-8 record and were a tough match for the Leopards right out of the gate.
“In the beginning of the game, there were some of our players that were playing nervous,” head coach Julie Smith said. “In the sixth and seventh innings we started coming back.”
They scored two runs in the first inning, as Megan Richardson reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Lindsey Peters with the first run of the game.
Later in the inning, Carly Collins singled to left to score Richardson.
In the second, Sara DeStefano was hit by a pitch and stole second. Peters singled to right field to score DeStefano and put the Patriots up by three early in the game.
In the fourth inning, Kristen Akin-Henton was hit by Jessica McLaughlin’s pitch and later scored on Richardson’s RBI single up the middle, giving the Patriots their final run.
La Verne’s freshman outfielder Mandy Brenner grounded out to second base with bases loaded in the sixth, scoring Trisha McCormick and placing the Leopards on the board with their first run of the game.
In the seventh, La Verne’s Lynsey Padilla singled down the left field line, scoring Melissa Carlson with what amounted to the final run of the game for La Verne.
Carlson, McCormick and Padilla led the Leopards with two hits each to combine for eight of the team’s nine hits of the day.
“I think we were just putting too much pressure on ourselves to win,” Brenner said. “If we would have just relaxed in the beginning of the game I think we would have been okay.”
The Leopards defeated the Patriots 3-1 in their first meeting on May 8.
La Verne scored in the top of the third when Kari Granger singled, advanced to second on Jessica Ortega’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Carlson’s RBI single.
The Patriots could not handle McLaughlin’s tough pitching, and the score remained 1-0 for six innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, UT Tyler’s Kara Turner reached on an error by Padilla, scoring Courtney Carrizales and tying the game at one.
The Leopards fought back in the eighth as Padilla hit a sacrifice fly that allowed Ashley Paul to score. Later in the inning, Brenner singled to score Carlson with the final run of the game.
McLaughlin put up a tough front for La Verne throughout the game, only allowing a total of four hits.
“I felt our pitchers did a great job throughout the tournament,” Smith said.
“They put everything on the line.”
The Leopards did not have as much luck against No. 3 seed Mary Hardin Baylor, as they lost 3-1 on Friday.
In the bottom of the third, La Verne was first to score with a fielder’s choice from Ortega that scored Jessica Hernandez.
Megan Bohne hit a two-run homer in the top of the fourth to pull the Crusaders ahead of the Leopards.
In the top of the sixth, the Crusaders scored their final run when Charlsie Cope scored pinch runner Joanna Johnson.
“We weren’t getting on base and we weren’t hitting the ball well,” Brenner said.
Crusaders pitcher Kelsey Greeson showed no mercy, only giving up three hits to La Verne.
Senior Jodi Lindsay led La Verne with two out of the team’s four hits.
Although their late season winning streak has ended, the team still recognizes the progress they made this season in improving their skills and in strengthening team unity.
“Although we wish we could have gone further, we realized how much we were able to accomplish this year,” freshman outfielder Corbin Henault said.
As a first year head coach, Smith was impressed by the team’s effort all season.
“Overall, as a season, I feel like we’re winners,” Smith said. “Our team is going to be a contender again.”
Jamie Ondatje can be reached at email@example.com.