PHOENIX – The University of La Verne baseball team notched the first win of the season on Saturday, beating George Fox, 6-3, and wrapped up the Arizona Desert Classic on Sunday.
La Verne dropped the early game on Saturday against Whitman, 15-13, and lost to Pacific Lutheran on Sunday, 5-4.
The Leopards used a big 5th inning to beat the Bruins. Trailing 2-1, the Leos scored four two-out to turn the momentum. Joe Winterburn tripled to plate two, and Pedro Espinoza and Josh Surdo followed with two more clutch singles to score two more.
George Fox threatened in the 8th when it loaded the bases. But Donald Hernandez, making his collegiate debut on the mound, put out the fire. The freshman promptly induced a ground out to get out of the inning with just one run allowed.
The 6-foot-3 southpaw earned the win, pitching five relief innings while striking out three.
"Hernandez was the pitcher of the week for us." La Verne head coach Scott Winterburn said. "He got us out of trouble and we were able to win the game."
Corey Werneth also made his first college appearance, getting the nod to start. The righty allowed two runs in four innings.
Mark Jebbia pitched a clean 9th inning to earn the save.
"Mark showed a lot of versatility," Winterburn said. "He started at third base, played a little bit of first and got the save on Saturday."
Joe Winterburn finished the game with two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Against Whitman, nine Leopards recorded at least one hit but it wasn't enough as La Verne fell in an offensive slugfest.
Down 13-5 after six and a half innings, La Verne once again put up a late-inning fight as it did against Linfield, but the rally fell just short.
In the 7th, Espinoza and Winterburn scored on an error by the shortstop to cut the deficit to six. La Verne then loaded the bases to start the 8th. Ben White and George Holland followed with RBI singles, and the Leopards pushed across two more to bring La Verne within 13-11.
However, two doubles led to two more runs for the Missionaries in the 9th and that proved to be enough of a cushion.
Winterburn had two hits and two RBIs. Espinoza and Surdo had multi-hit games as well.
"We had four or five guys that gave us consistently good at-bats this weekend: (Woody) Reyes, (Josh) Surdo, Holland, Espinosa and Winterburn," Winterburn added. "We want to get nine guys as we move forward."
Kevin Knight bounced back from a rough outing against Linfield with four shutout innings, but a third inning grand slam by Pacific Lutheran was too much to overcome.
Knight came on in relief of Jebbia, who started the game, in the 6th inning and finished the game. The senior didn't allow a run, struck out three and gave up only two hits.
The Leopards got on the board first when Tim Ralston and Surdo scored on an error by the shortstop in the 2nd inning, but Pacific Lutheran responded right away the next half inning with Bo Pearson's grand slam.
The Lutes added a run in the fifth on an RBI hit from Kit Banko.
La Verne scored two more runs in the 6th and had at least one runner on base each of the last three innings, but couldn't capitalize.
The Leopards jump right into SCIAC action this Friday at 2:30 p.m. when they travel to Redlands.