Photo by Wendy Perl
LA VERNE, Calif. — The University of La Verne softball team ended a 12-year conference championship drought with a sweep of Chapman on Saturday afternoon at Campus West.
The Leopards finish the SCIAC season with a 25-3 record and claims the 2016 championship outright. It is the Leopards' first SCIAC crown since 2004 and the program's eighth overall.
By virtue of earning the No. 1 seed, La Verne will host the 2016 SCIAC Softball Postseason Tournament at Campus West on May 6-7. The winner of the tournament will earn the SCIAC's automatic bid to the NCAA National Championship tournament.
All the pressure was on La Verne going into the day and it looked as if the Leopards were feeling it early, but they rose to the occasion. The Panthers nicked the Leopards early in both games but the Leopards, like they have done all season, rode timely hiting and Katherine Kibbe's brilliant pitching to a pair of victories.
The Panthers got on the board first in the first game on a two-out, two-run single by Gabrielle Leveratto in the second inning. But Kibbe regrouped and allowed just one hit rest of the way to lead the Leopards.
Victoria Baltazar played the hero on offense. The senior launched her first home run of the season -- a two-run shot in the bottom of the third -- to tie the game at 2-2 and went 2-for-4 at the plate.
Kibbe finished with a complete game and struck out nine to pick up the win.
In the second game, Alexis Schiff hit a two-out, bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the third to give La Verne a 4-2 lead and the Leopards held on for the win.
The Leopards were shaky to start. Chapman drew a leadoff walk and took advantage of two fielding errors to take a 2-0 lead and chased La Verne starter Lyndsay Godwin after just one out.
La Verne turned to Kibbe to get out of the jam and the senior delivered once again, and then some. Kibbe got her first two batter to ground out to get out of the first inning and went the distance, throwing 6.2 innings while giving up just two hits and notching six strikeouts.
The offense did just enough. After making an out to start the bottom of the third, the Leopards came up with three straight singles to load the bases. The Leopards broke the scoring seal on an error and Schiff smacked her triple down the left field line to clear the bases to give the Leopards their final lead.
Kibbe goes to 18-4 on the season.
Carly Condon led the Leopards with two hits and seven Leopards recorded at least one hit.
Before the game, the Leopards celebrated the careers of their five seniors: Baltazar, Dutton, Godwin, Kibbe and Raeleen Tellez.
The Leopards will hope to celebrate some more as they take on fourth-seeded Whittier to open the SCIAC tournament on Friday. Game time is yet to be determined.