LA VERNE, Calif. — It was a catch straight out of Hollywood.
With the Leopards holding on to a 1-0 lead in the top of the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded, La Verne center fielder Raeleen Tellez snatched Mari Ahern's grand slam bid at the fence to seal the win over Whittier in the second game of a doubleheader at Campus West on Saturday.
"I was in shock," Tellez said when asked how she felt when she saw the ball in her glove. "That was a make-or-break play, it was do-or-die so I just had to do it. It was an amazing feeling to rob a grand slam."
Ahern hit it hard to deep center but there was just enough air under the ball for Tellez to make a play. "Once I saw the ball coming off the bat, I reached for the fence first, searched for the ball and just made the catch," Tellez said.
The win, coupled with an 8-1 rout of the Poets in the first game, propels the Leopards into third place in the SCIAC standings with a 13-9 conference record. Whittier falls to 15-7 but remains in first place.
Alexis Schiff drove in the game-winner in the bottom of the third with a seeing-eye single through the right side.
But Tellez made the best play of the game—and arguably the best of the season—when she used a perfectly timed hop and reached over the fence to rob Ahern.
Katherine Kibbe (10-5), who finished with her third shutout in her last four starts, thought she had given up the lead.
"I definitely thought it was gone," Kibbe said. "But it was really high so I thought maybe Raeleen had a shot. When she actually caught it, I don't think I've ever been so excited in my life."
When Tellez came down with the ball, Kibbe was the first one to toss her glove aside and rush center field.
"Unbelievable," La Verne head coach Julie Smith said. "But these are the things we do in practice. I always tell my payers, 'don't be afraid of that fence' and [Raeleen] went right into it. … She read the ball, timed it and went up and came down with the ball."
Tellez made another incredible play in the third inning to prevent Whittier from scoring. With Samantha Mellano on second, Whittier's Mercedez Cundiff singled to center with two outs and looked to get the Poets on the board. But Tellez fielded the ball cleanly and fired a bullet towards home to shoot down Mellano to end the inning.
The Poets got at least a runner in scoring position in each of the next three innings, but Kibbe managed to get out of the jams with three swinging strikeouts to end the innings.
The Leopards won the first game on the strength of two three-run home runs. Whittier got on the board in the first inning but Rebecca Ireland smacked on over the left field fence to give the Leopards a 3-1 lead and Alexis Schiff launched a SCIAC-leading eighth homer in the sixth inning to seal the deal.
Hayley Jaquess (6-5) went all seven innings and struck out eight to earn her sixth win of the season.
The Leopards and the Poets honored veterans as they teamed up to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. The teams raised over $700 with barbecue, t-shirts and bingo to help returning servicemen and –women.
The Leopards are back in action tomorrow at Chapman. The first game of a doubleheader starts at noon.