Titans preseason a success -LCC hopes challenging non-conference schedule pays off
The Titans rolled into their March 13 match up against the No.1 ranked Red Devils of Lower Columbia Community College looking to improve on their 5-4 record. The Titans put the rest of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges on notice, allowing just three runs over two games and splitting the series against the top-ranked Red Devils.
In the first contest, the Titans won a 13-inning thriller behind great pitching by starter Matt Bellando and relievers Jody Potter and Ben Schreiner.
The game was tied 0-0 in the top of the 13th, when Kevin Shepard hit a go ahead triple with two out to put the Titans ahead. The Titans scored again on a passed ball to take a 2-0 lead and wound up winning 2-1.
"That was a big deal for us, we wanted to make a statement in that first game and that's what we did, and we showed the NWAACC that we are for real," sophomore infielder Cory Staniforth said.
Despite a solid performance by sophomore right-hander Chris Vitus, Titans were on the other end of a 2-1 game in the second game of the doubleheader. Lower Columbia's go ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning proved to be enough in the seven-inning game.
Nonetheless, the Titans strong performance against one of the NWAACC's top teams proved they can play with anybody.
The following week, March 20, the Titans headed to Tri-Cities, Wash. for the Columbia Basin tournament where again they met Lower Columbia. LCC lost that game, 6-2, and dropped another game later that day, 3-2, to Grays Harbor Community College.
LCC turned things around the following day on March 21, defeating Tacoma Community College 5-4. In that game, Johnny Miles went 3-for-4 and had three RBIs for the Titans.
LCC beat Green River Community College 5-2 later that day behind solid performances at the plate by Chris Vitus, 3-for-4, and Jake Van Cleave, 2-for-3. Van Cleave also scored two runs. Starting pitcher Jody Potter gave up no earned runs in eight innings of action.
The Titans closed out the Columbia Basin tourney on March 22, with a rematch against Grays Harbor. In total, 23 runs were scored as the Titans edged Grays Harbor 12-11.
LCC scored six runs in the first and Grays Harbor answered with five runs of their own.
Grays Harbor then went ahead 9-6 in the fifth inning. A solo home run by John Miles made it 9-7, two more runs by Grays Harbor made stretched their lead to 11-7. LCC scored one more run to make it 11-8. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, the Titans loaded the bases with no outs and scored four runs to go ahead 12-11. The Titans' pitchers held on in the top of the ninth to give the Titans their third straight victory in dramatic fashion.
"After losing the first two games we ended up winning three in a row, two on Saturday and one on Sunday, so we actually finished up pretty well," Strickland said.
Before their March 13 match up against Lower Columbia, the Titans amassed a 5-4 record with multiple wins over eighth-ranked Treasure Valley and Prairie Academy.
LCC's win against Grays Harbor marked the end of its preseason schedule. The Titans finished the preseason with a 9-7 record, and confidence that they can play with anybody in the NWAACC.
"We made a lot of strides in the preseason, we're a sophomore dominant team and we developed a lot of chemistry," Staniforth said.
Strickland called the preseason "very promising," adding that if the Titans' hitting improves they will be a tough team to beat.
"We played well enough in the preseason to win 13 or 14; not everything went our way, but every single game we were in position to win. If we eliminate the mistakes and hit a little bit better we would have won a few more games … we're pitching as good as anybody - if we hit, we win." Strickland said.