With the regular season coming to a close, the baseball team is still fighting to secure a spot in the conference postseason as three wins are all that separate first place and fifth place in the conference.
There is one series left in the regular season, and the Panthers are tied for third place with Redlands University and Occidental College, who the Panthers will play in the final series. The top four teams in the conference compete in the playoffs.
Against the second-place University of La Verne, the Panthers lost two out of three games in the weekend series.
“We’re right in the thick of it with University of La Verne and Occidental College, so we really have to take care – especially after losing this one (on Friday),” said head coach Scott Laverty. “We’re in a day-by-day scenario that we put ourselves in (by) playing as poorly as we did (Friday).”
In the first game at their home field at Hart Park, the Panthers fell to the Leopards 7-4, after trailing by seven runs in the top of the eighth inning. The Panthers were out-hit by La Verne 11 to seven.
“We didn’t come out to play (Friday),” Laverty said. “Unfortunately, (La Verne) came out and took advantage of the mistakes we made early and we weren’t ready. We had a couple of big plays with walks and an error that let them score runs. It’s really disappointing.”
Despite this loss, senior infielder Tyler Cook’s home run in the bottom of the eighth inning broke into the top 10 for number of career home runs in Chapman’s history. With 17 home runs, Cook is the first player to do this since 2009.
The current record for number of home runs in a career from a Chapman player is 21, held by both Luis Garcia (1995-98) and Brian Sanders (2001-04).
In the final inning, Cook also hit a single that marked his 200th career hit, becoming the seventh Panther to do so.
“I honestly didn’t even know that, but that’s always nice to hear, that all my hard work over the years is paying off,” Cook said. “I was just trying to help out the team more than anything.”
However, the Panthers were unable to come away with a win.
“I just think we need to be a little more aggressive at times, both in hitting and all around,” Cook said.
In the Saturday morning game at La Verne, the Panthers found themselves down 2-0 by the end of the first inning. However, thanks to two home runs from junior outfielder Conner Larkin in the second and sixth innings, the Panthers were able to tie the game 7-7 by the end of eighth inning. Despite the Panthers’ efforts, the Leopards scored a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game and the series.
The Panthers came back for the afternoon game and walked away with a win against La Verne. The Panthers took the lead in the second inning and increased it to 6-0 by the end of the fourth inning. After giving up three runs in the fifth inning, the Panthers responded by scoring five runs in the sixth. The Panthers ended the game two innings early due to the mercy rule, by scoring one run in the seventh inning, bringing the score to 13-3.
Last week, the Panthers’ 12-7 comeback win against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps also marked Laverty’s 100th win as head coach for the Panthers.
“It’s been awesome,” Laverty said. “We’ve done well in my almost four years here. Getting 100 wins in four years means you’re doing OK. It was nice, but this is just a great group to work with.”
The Panthers travel to Occidental on Friday, April 28 at 3 p.m. to start their final series of the regular season and look to secure their place in the postseason tournament.