TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of La Verne baseball team earned split results against No. 14 Linfield and No. 17 Pacific Lutheran at the annual Tucson Invitational Games over the weekend.
Game 1: Pacific Lutheran 6, La Verne 4 (Friday)
The Lutes, who came into the invitational with four games under their belt, pounced early as La Verne worked off its rust and held on for a 6-4 win.
La Verne scored first as Christopher Ligot knocked in the first run of his career with a bases-loaded groundout to second in the top of the first inning. Pacific Lutheran answered right back with a two-run double by Tyler Thompson and added four more runs in the third and the fourth to get out to a 6-1 lead.
La Verne had runners on first and second with one out in the top of the ninth and the Leopards appeared to have a rally on their hand when Nicholas Michaels came through with a single. But the Lutes caught Pedro Espinoza a rundown between third and home before tagging him out and the comeback attempt stalled. Woody Reyes did score on a wild pitch but that was all the Leopards would get.
Reyes went 2-for-3 with two runs and Thomas was 2-for-5 with an RBI.
Brett Early got the start and went 3.2 innings with three strikeouts while giving up three earned runs. La Verne's bullpen did its job with 4.1 scoreless innings. Alexander Gorzelany and Hayden Firth each went two innings and David McKeller got an out in the fourth.
Kyle Rossman earned the win for the Lutes with eight strong innings, giving up three runs and striking out seven.
Game 2: Linfield 13, La Verne 3 (Saturday)
Linfield tagged the Leopards for nine runs in the first four innings for a 13-3 win in the first game of a doubleheader.
Four Wildcats recorded at least three hits, led by Alex Hendra-Brown, who went 5-for-6 with four RBI.
La Verne freshman Christopher Peres went 3-for-4 in his first collegiate game and scored a run. Christopher Ligot was 1-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
Ligot knocked in La Verne's first run of the game in the bottom of the seventh with a sacrifice fly and Andrew Douglas brought in two with a pinch hit single in the bottom of the ninth.
Riley Newman (2-0) pitched seven innings of one-run ball to pick up the win for Linfield.
Game 3: La Verne 5, Linfield 4 (Saturday)
Christopher Peres knocked in three runs, Alex Bernstein was solid in start and the Leopards picked up their first win of the season, beating the Wildcats, 5-4.
With the game tied at 4-4, Woody Reyes drew a walk to lead off the top of the eighth and worked his way home with sacrifice bunt, a groundout and a wild pitch to give the Leopards the game winning run.
Nick Byrd, La Verne's breakout star from 2015, earned his first of the season by pitching two scoreless innings to finish the game.
Peres got the Leopards on the board first with a sacrifice fly in the top of the third and brought in two more in the top of the fifth.
But Linfield busted out for four runs in the bottom of the fifth and could've had more. The Wildcats had five straight batters reach base, scoring all four runs in the process, but Anthony Braun induced Hendra-Brown into a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the bases-loaded jam.
Alex Bernstein sent 4.1 innings while giving up one earned run and got three strikeouts.
Reyes went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Game 4: La Verne 3, Pacific Lutheran 2 (Sunday)
Brent Backlund, a senior transfer from NCAA Division II Central Oklahoma, broke out with strong eight innings on the mound and the Leopards beat the Lutes, 3-2, in a walkout fashion in the tournament finale on Sunday.
Backlund fanned seven, walked just one and scattered just four hits in eight innings. He kept the Lutes scoreless through the first six innings before finally allowing a run on a homer by Landon Packard in the seventh.
With La Verne leading 2-1, Backlund gave way to Byrd in the ninth inning. But Byrd, who was virtually lights out in clutch situations last year, had trouble with control on Sunday and the Lutes took advantage as Packard knocked in the tying run.
But the offense picked him right up. Light led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, Michael Watson reached on an error by the shortstop and Anthony Gonzalez, another newcomer, finished it off with a single to bring in Ligot.
Gonzalez, who got the start at third, was 2-for-4 and Peres continued his hot start with a 2-for-4 day of own.
The Leopards jump right into SCIAC action, traveling to Caltech on Friday to open a three-game series. First pitch is at 2:30 p.m.