Down to the wire -Titans must win, get help, to make the playoffs

05/14/2009 10:03
Cody Staniforth is safe at first base as the throw sails past the first basemen's head. If the Titans can tie Clackamas for second place in the standings, they will travel to Oregon City on Saturday, May 16, for a one-game playoff. Clackamas gets to host the game because of a random system that determines where tiebreaker games will be held. Photo by JB BOTWINICK/The Torch
Cody Staniforth is safe at first base as the throw sails past the first basemen's head. If the Titans can tie Clackamas for second place in the standings, they will travel to Oregon City on Saturday, May 16, for a one-game playoff. Clackamas gets to host the game because of a random system that determines where tiebreaker games will be held. Photo by JB BOTWINICK/The Torch
The Titans, 14-14, are two games behind Clackamas, 16-12, for second place in the Southern Region and a spot in the NWAACC Championships. Mt. Hood, 24-4, has clinched first place in the south. Photo by JB BOTWINICK/The Torch
The Titans, 14-14, are two games behind Clackamas, 16-12, for second place in the Southern Region and a spot in the NWAACC Championships. Mt. Hood, 24-4, has clinched first place in the south. Photo by JB BOTWINICK/The Torch
Titans' pitcher Matt Bellando tracks his pitch to the plate. Photo by JB BOTWINICK/The Torch
Titans' pitcher Matt Bellando tracks his pitch to the plate. Photo by JB BOTWINICK/The Torch
Entrenched in second-place for most of the regular season, LCC has dropped six out of their last eight games, and on the eve of the regular season, the Titans find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.

Two games separate LCC, 14-14, from the 16-12 Clackamas Community College Cougars. This means the Titans must win both games against Linn-Benton Community College and Clackamas must lose both games to Mt. Hood Community College on the final day of the regular season - just to set up a one game playoff with Clackamas to determine the Southern Region's second seed.

"I don't want to be in a position where teams have to lose games for us to do what we wanted to do, but that's what we're looking at now," Head Coach Rob Strickland said about his teams precarious situation. He added, "It's the worst part of the season to play bad baseball."

The Titans split their doubleheader against first-place Mt. Hood on Thursday, May 7.

In the first game Sean O'Connor struck out five over 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win and Chris Vitus pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief for LCC who picked up a 6-3 win.

The Titans had 16 hits in that game. Kevin Shepherd led the way, going 4-for-5 and driving in two runs. Alex Williams was 3-for-3; Jake Van Cleave was 2-for-4 and scored two runs and John Miles with 2-for-5 with two RBIs.

"Huge win for us, because if we lose that one we're not even in contention," Strickland said.

The Titans dropped the second game 8-2. John Miles and Andrew Goodpaster each had hits for the Titans.

In a series that had huge playoff implications, LCC took on Clackamas on Saturday, May 7, as the teams battled for second place.

When the dust finally settled LCC had committed four errors and Clackamas beat the Titans 16-0.

"The biggest doubleheader of the season. It's 0-0 in the third inning with two outs, and they just opened the flood gates, made it a seven run inning before we could get out of it," Strickland said.

In the second game Jody Potter struck out six and threw a complete game, but the Titans bats' couldn't come through and LCC was on the wrong side of a 1-0 game.

"Of the 17 runs we gave up in the two games, five were earned. So it wasn't the pitchers, we just didn't hit. It couldn't have come at a worse time of the season because we needed to win one of those games. We just didn't hit. That absolutely killed us," Strickland said.

The losses put the Titans one game back of Clackamas heading into their series against the last-place Southwestern Oregon Community College on Tuesday, May 12.

The Titans picked up a 5-3 win in the first game behind Chris Vitus' five-hitter.

Corey Staniforth was 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI for LCC, who broke a 3-3 in the top of the seventh inning with two runs.

"Vitus pitched well, gave us a win. We didn't hit particularly well, but we hit enough," Strickland said.

Southwestern won the second game when Jared Fritz hit a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give them a 4-3 win. The loss was the Titans sixth in eight games.

"Our desire has been scaring me for two weeks. We pitched well enough to win the majority of our games, our defense has been above average most of the season. If we don't hit, we don't win. It's plain and simple.

Strickland would go on to question his own coaching and his players, but left the door open for his team to prove otherwise. "Certainly have the talent here, but do we have mental make-up and chemistry here that we really need? We'll find out tomorrow."

For results on the Titans final two games, go to http://www.nwaacc.org