Matt Myrmo prepares to catch a ball at the NWAACC championships. ALAN K. FOX / THE TORCH
After losing 2-1 to Southern Region rival Mt. Hood, the Titan baseball season closed with the men claiming fourth in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges’ championship tournament.
The loss to the Saints was LCC’s second of the tournament. The first defeat came 9-0 from the Bellevue Bulldogs in the winning bracket.
While not satisfied with the overall outcome of the tournament, head coach Dean Stiles was happy with his team’s performance.
“I thought we surprised some people with how competitive we were in the tournament,” Stiles said.
Playing in the winners’ bracket, the Titans fell to the Bellevue Bulldogs 9-0 in their third round matchup.
Sophomore Dawson Phinney started on the mound for the Titans and threw three innings allowing three earned runs on five hits.
Freshman Jordan Van Engers came on in relief for Phinney, in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and gave up no runs. After striking out the first batter he faced, Van Engers got the next Bulldog batters to fly out to left fielder Elliot Sherrell. Sherrell then threw a strike to third baseman Dan Copeland who tagged out the Bulldog runner trying to advance from second to third for the final out of the inning.
The Titans couldn’t capitalize on the momentum gained and couldn’t get the offense moving against the Bulldogs’ starting pitcher.
Freshman pitcher Justin Young came in to relieve Van Engers and threw a scoreless ninth inning allowing only one hit.
For the game, Van Engers threw five innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits. Sherrell, along with sophomores Skip Spencer and Jimmy Sanchez, each provided a hit for the Titans.
LCC had no time to think about the loss to Bellevue. Southern Region rivals Mt. Hood were waiting to play the Titans 30 minutes after the Bulldog win.
Facing an opponent they played six times during the regular season, the Titans were extremely familiar with the Saints and were hoping for a victory to continue tournament play.
With the Titan pitching staff thin on arms already, the team turned to NWAACC all-tournament pitcher freshman Zach Kayser and he did not disappoint.
Kayser threw 7 1/3 solid innings, giving up only one earned run on five hits to give the Titans a chance at the victory.
“My slider is my go-to pitch, so when I wasn’t spotting up with my fastball I could always go back to my slider for a strike,” Kayser said. “I was also keeping my fastballs low and using my movement to get ground balls.”
LCC struck first in the top of the second inning to take an early 1-0 lead.
Spencer led the inning off with a walk and would come around to score on a single up the middle by team captain Joe Offer.
The score would stay that way until the bottom of the seventh inning when the Saints would capitalize on a couple of Titan errors to push the tying run across the plate.
After a scoreless eighth inning, the Titans came to bat in the top of the ninth but had nothing to show for it.
That set the stage for the extremely dramatic bottom of the ninth inning.
After a lead off hit, a strikeout and a another hit, the Saints had the winning run at third and a runner at first with one out.
Spencer came into relieve freshman Jackson Wilde, who relieved Kayser an inning prior, and promptly got the next batter to ground out to Copeland at third base.
Copeland threw the ball home to freshman catcher Jordyn Van Atta, possibly playing with a broken right hand, who applied the tag for the second out of the game.
Van Atta then threw across the diamond to get the runner out at first but threw the ball out of play.
Because the ball was ruled out of play, the Saint runner, who advanced to second on the at bat, was allowed two bases and scored the winning run of the game.
For the game, Offer, Copeland and sophomore Darrell Hunter had the lone hits for the Titans while Offer provided the team’s only RBI.
Sanchez and Kayser were both selected to the all-tournament team. Sanchez was selected as an outfielder while Kayser was selected as a relief pitcher.
“There should be plenty of NWAACC appearances in the future, maybe even a few titles,” sophomore pitcher John Linscott said. “I’m very proud to be a part of the team that kick started it all.”