Titans return to Earth
After hot streak, LCC drops three out of four
The Titans were in second place coming into one of the toughest four-game stretches of their season, and were hoping strong performances against the league's top teams would put them in the driver's seat.
But, after a red-hot seven-game stretch where it won six games, LCC has now dropped three of its last four and is now on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
"They know what their place is now, the pressure is off them to try to win the league title, it's just out of reach. We're just gonna have to play consistent game-in-game-out the rest of the way. It will boil down to us beating the teams that we have to beat," Head Coach Rob Strickland said.
On Saturday, April 11, the Titans hosted the 5-5 Chemeketa Storm. The Titans won the first game of the doubleheader 7-3. Sophomore catcher Kyle Hansen went 2-for-3, drove in three runs and added a run scored and a stolen base. Johnny Miles went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs. Sophomore pitcher Chris Vitus struck out 11 with one walk and three hits over seven innings. Ben Schreiner came in for the eighth inning, and Jody Potter closed.
Miles, hitting .345, and Sheppard, hitting .340, have been two of the Titans biggest contributors at the plate all season.
"Hittingwise, Sheppard and Miles are doing an outstanding job. They're driving runs in, getting on base, everything we could ask of them," Strickland said.
The Titans couldn't complete the sweep, however, as Chemeketa's Matt Wasson threw a complete game, handing LCC a 5-2 loss. The Titans took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, but LCC couldn't get hits when needed, leaving men on base all afternoon. Again, Shepard and Miles hit well. Shepard went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run. Miles went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
"They started hitting and we couldn't execute when we absolutely needed to. We must have left at least 10 guys on base in that game and that absolutely killed us." Strickland said he was "really disappointed with that game, because that could have created some separation between us and [Mt.] Hood and then the rest of the pack."
After splitting a pair against Chemeketa, the Titans' focus turned to the first place Mt. Hood Community College Saints, who hosted LCC on Tuesday, April 14.
After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first game, the Titans just couldn't hang with Mt. Hood. The Saints hit four home runs against the Titans pitching staff on their way to a 13-3 romp.
"Yesterday, there was just no answer for them," Strickland concluded.
It was more of the same in the second game. The Titans jumped out to an early lead again. But the one run LCC scored would be its only of the afternoon, as Mt. Hood struck back with nine unanswered runs, giving the Saints an easy 9-1 victory.
"Our pitchers have been pitching very well this season, but they hit rock bottom. Mt. Hood just hit everything we threw yesterday, we just didn't have an answer for them." Strickland added, "They showed they are the best team in the league, and at this point probably No. 1 or No. 2 [in the NWAACC]."
Unfortunately for the Titans, the bad news didn't end there. "We are banged up, we suffered some injuries yesterday, our pitching staff is a little bit depleted at this point. I don't think we'll play any non-league games, our pitching staff is too banged up," Strickland said.
The loss puts LCC in third place in the Southern region, one-and-a-half games back of Clackamas, after five straight wins put them ahead of the LCC and Chemeketa. But by no means are the Titans panicking.
Strickland believes his team has shown good resilience throughout the season, and as long as the team doesn't give away any games, it will be in a good position to get back into second place because, "I don't see anyone getting close to Mt. Hood, they just are head and shoulders above everyone else."
The Titans will have one more game against Mt. Hood at home on Thursday, April 16, at 2 p.m. before hosting the Southwestern Oregon Community College Lakers on Saturday, April 18, at 1 p.m. The two-game set against SOCC should provide the Titans a good chance to get back on track, since the Lakers are 0-10 in conference. A huge test will be on tap for LCC on Tuesday when it travels to Oregon City for a doubleheader against Clackamas.