Titans take third in conference; Edmonds ends Lane’s tournament run

<>brLane sophomore pitcher Jeff Hardy throws during an April 6 game. Hardy was named to the NWAACC All-Southern Region First Team and earned a win for the Titans at the NWAACC tournament May 23.Photo: Torch archive

Lane sophomore pitcher Jeff Hardy throws during an April 6 game. Hardy was named to the NWAACC All-Southern Region First Team and earned a win for the Titans at the NWAACC tournament May 23.
Photo: Torch archive

The Titans were underdogs in this year’s NWAACC Championship before the tournament even started.

They scraped their way into the playoffs on the last day of the season, and as a reward, faced the conference’s top team, the Edmonds Community College Tritons, in the first round.

The Tritons’ explosive offense overpowered Lane in a Day 1 blowout, meaning the Titans were just one loss away from elimination.

However, Lane’s sophomore-heavy squad bounced back to win its next three games. They made just one error and allowed three runs against three of the top offenses in the conference to earn a spot in the NWAACC Final Four where they once again faced the Tritons.

But the Tritons prevailed 9-2 and went on to defeat the Bellevue Community College Bulldogs to claim the NWAACC title later that day. The Titans claimed third place in the tournament.

“I thought we were the second best team there.” Lane head coach Josh Blunt said. “Edmonds, top to bottom, was probably better than everybody at almost every position. Offensively, guys that they have in the seventh and eighth spots of their lineup would probably hit third for us everyday.”

Lane finished its season with a 30-18 overall record and its best tournament since 2010, when the Titans finished second.

Made up mostly of sophomores and players who had transferred from other schools, Lane’s veteran team clicked quickly this season and found success with a small-ball style of play that depended on timely hitting, aggressive baserunning and sacrifice bunts.

“I said from Day 1 that this is my favorite group that I’ve ever been around,” Blunt said. “They earned everything they got … and put themselves in a really good position to play on the last day of the year.”

Sophomore first baseman Jarren Goddard led the Titans’ offense early in the year; he hit over .400 until mid-April and drove in 18 runs in his first 11 games. Although he suffered through a late season slump, he regained form in the playoffs and drove home seven runs in Lane’s final five games.

Goddard led the Titans with five home runs and 39 RBIs and finished the season with a .315 average. The Titans were sparked late in the season by hitting streaks from sophomore utility player Konner Reddick and freshman outfielder Forest Garcia. Garcia was 16-for-33 in his last 14 games and Reddick led the team with a .348 average and carried a 16-game hitting streak from April 12 to May 12.

Sophomore third baseman Eric Long led the Titans with 152 hits and he and sophomore shortstop Tucker Campbell were two of the top defensive infielders in the conference. Sophomore center fielder Spencer Smith was second among Titans in runs and RBIs with 31 and 25 respectively. Smith was third in hits with 45 and led Lane in stolen bases with 13.

On the mound, the Titans were led by sophomore Jeff Hardy, a right-handed transfer from University of Nevada. Hardy finished the season with six wins, 62 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA in 12 appearances.

The Titans were the only team in the NWAACC to feature 12 pitchers who tossed 15 or more innings, and their pitching depth was one of their strongest assets.

A dominant Titan relief unit was carried by freshman Travis Boggs (5-1, 0.40 ERA), Shane Quarterly (3-0, 0.57 ERA) and sophomore Travis Kelley (4-1, 1.64 ERA). Boggs, Quarterly and Kelly struck out a combined 67 batters and walked only 16.

GAME 1, MAY 22
8-0 loss versus Edmonds Community College Tritons
Lane’s tournament got off to a rocky start as the top-seeded Tritons scored six runs in the first two innings and put the Titans in a win-or-go-home situation for the remainder of the tournament. Lane sophomore pitcher Travis Kelly, who normally pitches in a relief role, was rocked for nine hits and four earned runs in 1.2 innings in his second start of the season. Tritons catcher Kyle Olson went 3-for-4 and scored three times, and Edmonds ace Zach Johnson held the Titans to just two hits while striking out six in eight innings of work.

GAME 2, MAY 23
6-0 win versus Columbia Basin Community College Hawks
With the tournament on the line, the Titans responded with a lights-out performance and began a streak of 25 innings in which they didn’t allow a run. Lane starter Jeff Hardy added to an outstanding 2014 campaign with a seven-inning, six-strikeout performance to earn his sixth win of the season. The Titans racked up four runs in the first two innings, despite going the entire game without an extra base hit. Sophomore third baseman Eric Long went 4-for-4 and scored three times, and sophomore center fielder Spencer Smith was 2-for-5 with three RBIs.

GAME 3, MAY 24
7-0 win versus Treasure Valley Community College Chukars
The Titans showed their superior pitching depth in their second win of the season over the Chukars. Sophomore pitcher Parker Sherrell earned the win in his first start since April 12, in what was one of Lane’s strongest performances of the tournament. Sherrell struck out eight batters in eight innings and allowed just six base runners to earn his first win of the year. Sophomores Blake Montague and Jarren Goddard each went 2-for-3 and drove home two runs, and Smith scored once and stole two bases.

GAME 4, MAY 25
6-3 win versus Bellevue Community College Bulldogs
With a chance to knock off the tournament’s last undefeated team, Blunt handed the ball to Jackson Bertsche, a flame-throwing freshman who had struggled with consistency all season. Bertsche delivered a five strikeout performance and stymied one of the top offenses in the NWAACC for 7.2 innings, and freshman reliever Shane Quarterly was able to earn the last four outs to send the Titans to a tiebreaker. Goddard led the way for the Titans with two singles and three RBIs and freshman outfielder Forest Garcia was 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

GAME 5, MAY 26
9-2 loss versus Edmonds Community College Tritons
Lane’s tournament run came to an end after their second loss of the weekend to the Tritons, who went on to win the championship game later that day. The Titans held even with Edmonds for two innings, but crumbled in the third inning when they surrendered two runs and then seven more over the next three innings. Sophomore starter Jared Priestly was one of four Titan pitchers who allowed at least one run, and Edmonds’ starter Zach Johnson shut down the Titans for the second time in four days. Johnson struck out nine Titans and allowed just five hits over seven innings. Sophomore outfielder Spencer Smith led the Titans with a 2-for-4 performance.