In its last series of the regular season, the baseball team swept Occidental College to secure its place in the conference playoffs and finish the regular season in second place with a conference record of 16-8.
“It’s good momentum,” said head coach Scott Laverty. “To finish off the season strong this way and getting those three wins puts us maybe into second depending on what happens in the last game with (University of) La Verne and Whittier (College).”
The eighth-place Poets ended up completing a surprise sweep of the Tigers over the weekend, meaning that the Panthers will play No. 3 seed University of Redlands in the first round of the playoffs.
The Panthers beat fifth-place Occidental 10-4 in the first game of the series on Friday. The Tigers scored four runs in the first inning, but the Panthers shut them out for the rest of the game and came back through a home run from junior outfielder Justin Stream in the fifth inning and another from sophomore outfielder Christian Cosby in the ninth inning.
The Panthers then came back on Saturday and, despite the game being close in the first three innings, found themselves down to the Tigers 11-6 by the end of the fifth inning. However, in the bottom of the eighth, the Panthers rallied to score six runs and take the win. The 12-11 win not only won the series for the Panthers, but it also helped secure their postseason tournament spot.
“(High-scoring games) are something that we’re used to offensively,” Laverty said. “The second game, we kind of got behind and beat ourselves on the mound defensively sometimes. But we’ve been pretty solid offensively all year long.”
Junior infielder Jared Love hit two home runs during the course of the game, including a home run with two runs batted in that helped complete the rally in the eighth inning.
“I’m just happy that we were able to come back and win,” Love said. “It always feels good to hit a home run and it feels even better when it really helps the team out.”
The Panthers kept riding the momentum of the previous two games and completed the sweep with a 14-5 victory over the Tigers. The Panthers were in good form from the start, scoring two runs in the first inning and then following that up with eight runs in the second inning. After the quick start, the Tigers were unable to get enough momentum back.
“We scored 10 yesterday, then 12 and 14 today,” Laverty said. “That’s a lot of runs. We’re pretty potent offensively, we’re really good defensively and we’ve come around on the mound. I just can’t wait for them to put it all together.”
The Panthers hope to keep their momentum going into the postseason.
“Our team has a lot of talent and potential,” Love said. “We started off the season really well and then we kind of ran into some rough spots. I feel like here at the end, this was a good step for us to work back into what we think we can do. At this point, everything starts fresh. I feel like as long as we get hot, we’re the team to beat. So there’s a lot of confidence from the team going into next weekend. We’ll see how far we can go.”
The Panthers host the Redlands at Hart Park Friday at 3 p.m. in the Panthers’ first game of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoffs. The Panthers beat Redlands in three of the teams’ four matchups this season.
“In practice, it’s just going to be the same thing,” said Love. “I think we prepare in a good way, and I think as long as we can stay relaxed, play our game and have fun next weekend, we’re going to be fine. All the guys are confident, and I think that’s the most important thing you can be going into your postseason tournament.”