ANTHEM, Ariz. -- After squandering a 7-1 lead it held after six innings, Linfield came through in the clutch, manufacturing a run in the bottom of the ninth to avoid a major upset against La Verne in the season opener for both clubs Friday afternoon at Boulder Creek High School.
With the game knotted at 7-7, Clayton Truex delivered a one-out RBI single to score Finn McMichael, who had singled and worked his way to the far corner on a sacrifice from Corey VanDomelen followed by a wild pitch.
McMichael finished the day 4-for-5 in his first career start. Jake Wylie was 3-for-5 with a solo home run and Truex added two more hits for the Wildcats, who outhit the Leopards 13-8 on the afternoon.
Chris Haddeland hurled seven strikeouts and allowed just one earned run during the first six innings. The lone run came from Tyler Watkins, who drew a leadoff walk from Linfield's ace, stole second and advanced home on consecutive groundouts.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, the Wildcat offense provided plenty of support in the bottom of the first.
VanDomelen and Nick Fisher drew successive walks, and VanDomelen scored on a wild pitch. Kramer Lindell drilled a two-RBI single to score Fisher and Truex, and the first career double from Eric Lawson brought Lindell home for a 4-1 advantage.
Aided by a speedy McMichael, Linfield added to its lead in the second. McMichael smacked a leadoff single before advancing to third on a failed pickoff attempt. VanDomelen scored McMichael in the next at-bat, and scored on Truex' sacrifice fly to center field.
Wylie's first home run of the 2014 season pushed the ‘Cats ahead 7-1 in the bottom of the sixth, but La Verne's bullpen silenced the nation's top ballclub until the final stanza as its offense mounted the comeback.
The Leopards loaded the bases in the seventh on two consecutive walks and a hit batter. Another wild pitch allowed Josh Surdo to score, and Mark Jebbia's RBI single scored Watson from third. With runners on the corners, Kyle Billeci struck out Joe Winterburn to escape the inning relatively unscathed.
La Verne crept to within three runs, 7-4, in the top of the eighth on Michael Watson's sacrifice fly to center field. The Leopards did most of their damage in the ninth, scoring on an RBI single from Jared Hovsepian and tying the game on Surdo's two-RBI single. Needing a big play to keep the game tied, Garett Speyer struck out pinch-hitter Ashton Edior to end the inning and bring the Wildcat offense back to the plate to finish the Leopards off in the regulation nine frames.
George Holland supplied three hits to keep the Leopard offense churning, while Jebbia and Surdo contributed two RBI apiece.