Baseball wins series in style with pair of comebacks

Junior outfielder Justin Stream hits a grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning in the Panthers’ 6-4 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps April 15. Photo by Caitie Guttry

After losing a game that went into extra innings against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Friday, the baseball team came back on Saturday to win the series two games out of three, including a comeback win that helped move the Panthers from third place to tied for second in the conference.

The Panthers have two series remaining in the regular season, against third-place University of La Verne and second-place Occidental College. The top four seeded teams in the conference make it to the playoffs, with the two highest seeded teams hosting the semifinals.

“It’s huge, coming back and winning this one,” said head coach Scott Laverty. “Winning the series puts us at 12-6, (and) with La Verne and Occidental (coming up), those are two teams that are going to be right there battling with us for spots in the conference tournament. Hopefully, it gives us a boost going back in.”

In the game at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps April 14, the Panthers maintained the lead until the ninth inning. Both senior third baseman Tyler Cook and freshman second baseman Aaron Wong hit home runs. However, the Stags put up three runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, and scored a run in the 10th inning to secure the walk-off win.

“We had some opportunities to break (the game) open and didn’t, and kind of let them stay around,” Laverty said. “Credit to them, they took advantage of some opportunities that we gave them, got some clutch hits, were able to tie up the game and win it in the 10th.”

The Panthers came back on Saturday and were able to complete two comebacks to get the wins they needed. In the first game, the Panthers were down 2-1 by the end of the fourth inning. However, the Panthers came back and scored five runs in the fifth inning with the help of a grand slam by junior outfielder Justin Stream.

“I’ve been pleased with the way we’re playing defense,” Laverty said. “I thought we pushed well today. Yesterday, we let one get away from us in the bottom of the ninth and they tied it up. They’re a much improved team and they battled us.”

In the final game of the series, the Panthers came back from a seven-run deficit to win the game and series. After going down 7-0 by the end of the second inning, the Panthers scored four runs in the fourth inning and then scored eight more runs in the sixth and seventh innings.

“It’s rough,” said sophomore outfielder Christian Cosby. “You can get down seven and after that, it’s easy for guys to give up. Coach (Laverty) was saying that they got on their high horse a little early. We knew we were down, but we didn’t get down on ourselves. I think that’s really what led to that seven run comeback. We kind of jumped on them and they were downhill from there.”

Cosby led the team in runs with three, including a home run in the sixth inning.

“For me personally, it’s big,” Cosby said. “I’ve been in and out at the plate, but it’s good to get two or three good hard hits today. I thought scoring the runs really got the momentum back on our side. I think that was the most important thing, because it was a big momentum shift. Down seven runs, and being able to hit three in at the opportune time – that was really good.”

After a shaky start to the series, the two wins could help the team as it heads into the final two series of the season.

“We’re used to it a little bit this year,” Cosby said. “If we lose that game, we lose the series, and we can’t lose the series – not this late in the season. So being able to come back, seven runs especially, and take two out of three from them was big.”

The Panthers start the series against the University of La Verne at home Friday, April 21 at 3 p.m.

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