The Titans are deadlocked in a second-place tie with the Southwestern Oregon Community College Lakers in the NWAACC Southern Region. Their playoff ambitions hinge on a May 16 winner-take-all three-game series with the Lakers.
The series could include a continuation of an April 25 game that was suspended in the top of the 13th inning due to darkness. The teams will play a doubleheader with the first game beginning at noon and, if each team wins a game, they will play the remainder of the suspended game as a tiebreaker.
Both Lane and SWOCC own 16-11 records and trail the Clark Community College Penguins (19-9), who have already locked up first place. Only two teams from each region go to the playoffs, and whichever team claims two wins on Friday will book its ticket to the NWAACC tournament.
Titans head coach Josh Blunt said his team is embracing the situation.
“We’re excited for it,” Blunt said. “I like our chances. Obviously, it’s a little nerve-wracking … the halted game could decide the season.”
Blunt said both sides will be depleted in the continuation of the suspended game if it is played. Lane’s leading hitter, sophomore Konner Reddick, will not be available because he has already been subbed out of the game, and the same goes for freshman infielder Kyle Watson. Lane will also be without freshmen pitchers Beau Ueland, Shane Quaterly and sophomore Eric Ruaro. Freshman Travis Boggs will be on the mound or the Titans when the game resumes.
The Titans also could be without their top power-hitter, sophomore first baseman Jarren Goddard, who sat out the last two games with a pulled hamstring.
Blunt said Goddard has looked “significantly better” than he did on Monday, the day after he was injured, but whether or not he plays against SWOCC will be a game-time decision.
To reach their current position, Lane won three of four games over the weekend.
In one of his strongest showings of the season, sophomore pitcher Jared Priestly led the Titans to victory in the May 11 opener versus the Clackamas Community College Cougars.
Priestly threw seven shutout innings and allowed six hits and no walks while striking out four Cougar batters. He will be the Titans starter in the series opener versus SWOCC.
“I’m stoked to be that guy. Like any athlete, you want to get the ball in that situation,” Priestly said. “I’m honored that (Blunt) thinks I’m the one who should contribute to the team and help us get a win that day.”
The Titans were led on offense by sophomore shortstop Tucker Campbell, who went 4-for-4 with an RBI and a double.
Reddick and freshman catcher Kyle Beam each had two hits and drove in a run.
The nightcap took a more dramatic twist.
The Titans and Cougars were tied 5-5 after three innings, and the Titans were forced to go to their bullpen early after Ruaro surrendered five runs on six hits and was pulled after just 2.1 innings.
Titan reliever Chris Neifert was able to get the Titans out of the third inning without further damage being done, and after that, freshman Travis Kelly was lights-out for the Titans. Kelly pitched four nearly flawless innings in relief; he surrendered no runs, no walks and just one hit while striking out three Cougar batters.
“(Kelly) was supposed to be one of our four starters this season,” Blunt said “But we’ve kind of hesitated to take him out of the relief role because he’s saved our lives in that situation so many times this year.”
Lane was held scoreless by Cougar starter Mike Kelly until the bottom of the seventh, but seized the game when Reddick drove in Motague with a walk-off single.
The next day, the Titans faced off against the Penguins in their final home series of the year. Blunt gave Jeff Hardy the ball in Game 1, and the Titans sophomore didn’t disappoint. Hardy tossed eight innings and struck out three batters while allowing just three hits and one controversial run.
Penguin designated hitter Michael Gonzales scored the lone Clark run on a double-steal, after it seemed like fellow Penguin Sam Kosbab had already been tagged out while running back to first base. However, the umpire ruled that Lane first baseman Kyle Watson missed Gonzales with the tag, and Kosbab was called safe. Had he been called out, the inning would have been over and no run would have scored.
One run was all the Penguins needed, as they held the Titans scoreless for the remainder of the game behind the pitching of Kevin Hamman. Hamman limited the Titans to just five hits in a complete game shutout.
The Titans struck back in Game 2 with a 7-3 victory. Campbell went 2-for-3 and drove in two. Montague had three RBIs and a double.
“That was big, for sure,” Priestly said. “It’s definitely a big momentum boost for this upcoming week, and I think it’s gonna lead to us playing well against SWOCC.”