Titans 2-2 in conference -After slow start, LCC wins two straight
While most students were off enjoying their Spring Break, the LCC men's baseball team was hard at work, beginning its quest for a spot in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges tournament.
After compiling a 9-7 record during their month-long preseason schedule, the Titans began what figures to be a very challenging conference schedule. Only the top two teams will qualify for the postseason in the talent rich Southern region. Unfortunately, the Titans got off to a rocky start on March 26, dropping their first two conference games.
LCC played host to the Chemeketa Community College Storm on Thursday, March 13.
Despite two good pitching performances, LCC couldn't bring home a victory.
"Both games we were down in the first inning, which in league play is awfully difficult to come back," Head Coach Rob Strickland said.
Sophomore right-hander Chris Mabeus took the loss in the first game in which the Titans lost 3-2. LCC dropped the next game 2-0, with another sophomore righty, Matt Bellando taking the loss. Strickland said their pitching was good enough to win, but with just three hits in each game the Titans couldn't come up with enough runs.
"I have to give them credit, their pitchers out-pitched us, they out-hit us and they played better defense than we did, so they deserved to win the double header." Strickland added, "It wasn't a pretty start."
Two days later on Saturday, March 28, LCC hosted the fourth-ranked Mt. Hood Community College Saints, a team which, according to Strickland, is the odds on favorites to win the Southern region.
With the Titans top pitcher Chris Vitus, who played for Mt. Hood last year on the mound, LCC gave up four runs in the first inning. The Titans responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first, but two more runs by the Saints put the Titans behind 6-4.
Vitus settled down after his shaky start and threw five scoreless innings.
"At first I just wasn't able to find my mechanics, and I was keeping the ball up [in the zone] but I knew our bullpen wasn't very deep - because it was the first game of a doubleheader - so I had to figure out how to get outs, weather it was strike outs, pop outs or ground balls," Vitus said.
The Titans bats also heated up, and they put up five more runs by the sixth inning, to give them a 9-6 lead.
Mt. Hood narrowed the deficit to 9-8 in the eighth inning, and had a chance to put more runs on the board in the ninth until Jody Potter came in and got the save for the Titans.
Despite giving up six runs in the first two innings, Strickland didn't consider taking out his ace. "I knew he was good enough to keep that team from scoring more runs. If you look at his performance after the first two innings, that's what kind of pitcher he is. He just decided to pitch rather than throw,"
Vitus called it a "huge win" for the team, and a game that meant a lot personally. Despite leaving Mt. Hood after one year, he said there was no love lost.
"They understood my situation, but I knew they would be going at me, and they did," Vitus said.
Sophomore infielder Cory Staniforth explained the meaning of the win over the third-ranked team in the NWAACC meant, "They're a good team and we just made a statement to the rest of the conference that we're going to be a really good team this year."
The second game of the doubleheader was cancelled due to rain.
With conference rival Chemeketa off to a 3-0 start and Mt. Hood at 2-1, the Titans are already playing catch-up.
In order to keep pace with those teams the Titans "need to start sweeping our doubleheaders," Strickland said.
The Titans looked to improve on their 1-2 conference record on the road against Southwestern Oregon Community College on Tuesday, March 31.
Unfortunately, a rainout kept the teams from completing the doubleheader. In the one game that was played, LCC got the win, 12-8. Freshman right-hander Kody Eidenschink got the win for the Titans who have now won two straight.
The Titans have rescheduled their game against Mt. Hood for 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 2.
The next game after that is at home game against Clackamas Community College on Saturday, April 4, at 1 p.m., followed by an away game against Linn-Benton Community College in Albany. On Saturday, April 11, the Titans will look to avenge their losses against Chemeketa at home at 1 p.m.