With their preseason in the books and South Region play underway, the Titans have a record of 13-8 overall and have earned a spot in the first Alaska Airlines Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges Baseball Poll.
Lane took the eighth and final spot in the ranking, which is decided by coaches from around the conference.
The Clark Community College Penguins were the only other team in the South Region to receive a vote.
The Titans have won six of their last 10 games, and currently sit in second place in the South with a regional record of 5-3-1.
Sophomore slugger Jar- ren Goddard provides a huge spark for the Titans’ offense this season. He leads the team in almost every offensive category, and owns a .412 batting average thus far.
“He’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter and for his size, he’s a plus athlete. He runs really well,“ Lane head coach Josh Blunt said. “He’s bought into it and it shows with his energy and what he brings everyday. He’s been good.”
The Titans’ first baseman’s bat has cooled off as of late; he has just one hit in his last nine at-bats. However, he is still third in the conference in home runs with three, and sixth in RBIs with 19.
Goddard has been supported by a gritty group of sophomores, who despite scoring less than two runs per game in regional competition, have found a way to grind out numerous close wins.
Sophomore infielders Tucker Campbell and Eric Long both have on-base percentages of .400 or better, and sophomore outfielder Spencer Smith is hitting .311 and leads the team in stolen bases with five.
Despite the Titans’ success in close games, Blunt acknowledges that there’s still room for improvement.
“We need to tidy up the loose ends. If you watch us play, there’s been one pivotal moment in every single game where we haven’t executed a small-ball thing,” Blunt said. “You’re never going to be perfect, but pretty close to perfect is what we need to be.”
Sophomore utility man Darin Nelson, a transfer from Linn-Benton Community College, has been a pleasant surprise for the Titans; he has driven in 12 runs while pla- tooning in both corner outfield spots.
Catcher Colby Rice, also a sophomore, is second among the Titans with a .333 batting average, and has possessed one of the hottest bats in the Titans’ lineup over the past several weeks.
“He’s such a good defensive player,” Blunt said. “Even if he wasn’t hitting, his defense is still the strength of his game.”
On the mound the Titans have been led by sophomore right-hander Jeff Hardy, who has emerged as the ace of a deep Titan staff.
Hardy has a 2-2 record in six starts and is second among Titan starters with a 3.34 ERA. He has surrendered 14 runs in 37 innings of work, and most impressively, has struck out 34 batters, third most in the conference.
“It’s not a surprise at all … His stuff is definitely there,” Blunt said. “What he has been able to do really well is pitch through some adversity.”
Sophomore righty Eric Rauro sits atop the Titans’ rotation with a 2.40 ERA in three starts, and freshman Jackson Bertsche leads all Titan starters in wins with three, despite a 6.42 ERA.
Freshman closer Travis Boggs is carrying the back end of the Titans bullpen with a nearly flawless resume. Boggs has surrendered no runs and just five hits in six appearances, and has picked up three wins and a save.
“Boggs is arguably as good as anybody we have on our team,” Blunt said. “He’s our guy at the end of every single game.”
Rainy weather has affected the Titans’ schedule tremendously, and several of their games have been postponed or relocated in order to avoid inclimate weather.
Blunt said his team wasn’t able to practice on their field as a collective group a single time during spring break.
The Titans will be in action again in a home doubleheader versus Clackamas Community College on April 11. The next day, they will travel to take on the Cougars in Oregon City for another doubleheader.