LA VERNE, Calif. — The University of La Verne baseball team split its doubleheader against Occidental at Ben Hines Field on Saturday afternoon. The Leopards dropped the first game, 5-2, in 14 innings but came back to win the nightcap, 11-4.
The Leopards remain atop the SCIAC standings at 14-4 (17-11 overall). The Tigers are in fifth place at 14-7 (18-11 overall).
Game 1: Occidental 5, La Verne 2 (14 inn.)
A ninth inning balk proved crucial as the Tigers scored the tying run in the top of the ninth on a dropped ball by La Verne pitcher Nick Byrd and came back to push across three runs in the 14th inning to beat the Leopards.
The Tigers were down to their last strike, trailing 2-1 with Jeffrey Johnson on third base and Charlie Caccamo at the plate. Byrd received the sign from his catcher and as he came to set, the ball slipped from his hands and rolled off the mound, allowing the Johnson to cross the plate.
Byrd got Caccamo swinging on the next pitch and settled to give the Leopards six solid innings in relief.
But the Tigers finally solved him in the 14th. Walker Marks reached after getting hit by a pitch, Caccamo drew a walk and Johnathan Brooks cashed them in with a double to deep right center. Munoz then fisted one over the third baseman to drive in the third run of the inning.
Byrd struck out seven while scattering four hits and giving up one walk.
Mark Jebbia was excellent in start, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out six.
La Verne got on the board early with a sacrifice fly by Ben White in the first inning and Oxy responded the next half inning with an RBI double by Marks to tie the game at 1-1.
Game 2: La Verne 11, Occidental 4
Brett Early pitched a gritty complete game, the offense came alive and the Leopards won the second game, 11-4.
Early (5-0) gave up just five hits and two walks in the game while fanning seven to pick up his fifth win of the season.
Both teams put up crooked numbers in the first inning. Early walked the leadoff hitter in four pitches and came around to score on an errant throw by Early. Victor Munoz followed with a double to score Brooks and came around to score himself later in the inning on a passed ball.
La Verne took advantage of two errors by Oxy shortstop Marks on one play. With two outs and two on, Nolan Henley hit a grounder to short but Marks bobbled it and airmailed the throw to first as he tried to compensate. Both runners came around to score and Nikko Williams and Andrew Douglas followed with RBI hits to give the Leopards a 5-3 lead.
The Tigers got within 5-4 in the sixth when Devon DeRaad doubled to score Brooks.
Thomas finished 2-for-5 with three RBI and two runs. Williams, Douglas and Woody Reyes added two hits each.
But La Verne responded the six runs in the next two inning keyed by a two-RBI Jakob Thomas triple in the sixth and another Oxy error that led to two runs in the seventh.
La Verne takes on No. 20 Cal Lutheran for a crucial series next weekend. The Leopards will host the first game at Ben Hines Field on Friday at 3 p.m. before traveling to Thousand Oaks on Saturday for a doubleheader. The series will go a long way towards determining this year's regular season SCIAC champion.