LA VERNE — The University of La Verne softball team had a doubleheader sweep of Cal Lutheran at their fingertips, but dropped game two 10-5 en route to a split between the two teams in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action Saturday at Wheeler Park.
With two runners on and one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Leopards (11-15, 7-9 SCIAC) were poised to enjoy a walk off victory against the Regals (17-11, 11-7 SCIAC), who swept them in the first series at Cal Lutheran on Feb. 22.
However the winning run did not cross home plate, and Cal Lutheran took advantage right away, scoring six runs in the top of the ninth inning.
"In the first game we got the job done early," senior designated hitter Raven Freret said. "In the second game we left the door open and gave them too many chances, and it caught up with us."
La Verne was forced to come back from two runs down twice, the last one coming under pressure in the bottom of the seventh inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Leopards were unable to score the game-winning run, and the Regals jumped out on them right away in what became a long inning.
Leadoff batter Kayla Sakamoto reached third base on a long single, a walk and bunt single loaded the bases with still no outs recorded, and then the runs came.
Cal Lutheran scored one run in six straight at bats by way of three base hits, a walk, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to open a 10-4 lead.
"Game two started off really strong, we had energy from game one," junior second baseman Danielle Vela said. "I think we could have adjusted earlier, and when we have the opportunity we have to learn how to shut the door."
However La Verne never stopped fighting. Two straight singles put sophomore Katy Kibbe at second base and Freret at bat, and the two switched places after Freret hit a double toward the right center field fence to bring the score to 10-5.
"I knew we were not going to roll over," senior third baseman Jackie Duran said. "We showed a lot of fight at the end. From the starters and the bench, everyone played. We showed a lot of depth."
Kibbe led with a team-high three hits and two RBIs. Three different pitchers contributed an effort in the loss; junior Rachel Hong did most of the work with three strikeouts and three walks coupled with seven hits and seven earned runs in five innings.
In game one, neither team allowed many scoring opportunities for the other, but the Leopards took advantage of theirs.
Freret drove in Vela in the bottom of the first inning, and a blooper dove over Regals senior shortstop Stephanie Martello to plate Dutton for the second run.
Both teams shut each other down defensively; La Verne retired three straight batters three times and Cal Lutheran did the same twice.
Leopard freshman pitcher Hayley Jaquess struck out five batters, including two in situations in which the Regals' leadoff batter reached base.
"I can't be happier for Hayley, she's finally feeling comfortable," La Verne head coach Julie Smith said. "The one thing Hayley does is give us ground balls. When she's on, you're going to see a lot of ground balls."
The Regals did threaten in the top of the seventh, reaching on an error to lead off the inning. However La Verne turned a double play and forced a ground out to take the victory.
"It comes down to discipline, and we got timely hits when we needed them," Smith said.
Freret led the way with two hits and one RBI while Kibbe pitched in with one hit and RBI as well. Jaquess pitched a complete game shutout with five strikeouts, zero walks and five hits.
The Leopards, who sit at sixth place in SCIAC, next play against Chapman at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in a doubleheader Friday at Wheeler Park.
Daniel Hargis is a senior Journalism major and Spanish minor at the University of La Verne, expecting to graduate in Spring 2014. He played on the Men's Water Polo team the past four years and has written sports for both the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine. He is currently working on his senior project, a sports blog titled Hargis Sports Weekly. You can follow him on Twitter @Hargis_SW and like his project on Facebook on Facebook.com/HargisSW.