The championship run for Lower Columbia College baseball started last September with scrimmages and daily workouts.
Nine months later, the Red Devils birthed their 12th baseball championship following a 5-1 win over Everett in the title game of the NWAC Baseball Championships on Monday at David Story Field.
Everett won the first championship game 6-3, giving each team a loss in the double-elimination tournament and forcing a second championship game.
“This is crazy,” LCC coach Eddie Smith said. “It’s more like giving birth to 35 children. This was a really, really special team since it was probably the least talented group we’ve had to start with in September. They developed as players, as a team, and they played for each other. They put each other first.”
The title is the second in three years for Smith, and the second championship won by an LCC team during the 2016-17 school year.
In November, the Red Devils’ volleyball team claimed its second-ever title by beating Linn-Benton in Tacoma.
“This team has never lost two games on the same day,” Smith said. “We’ve only been beaten twice in a row on two occasions, and it was not to the same team.”
In the final game, the Red Devils wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, and took advantage of some Everett miscues. LCC parlayed two walks, an error and a fielder’s choice into a 2-0 lead after the first inning. In the fourth, Everett had three infield throwing errors. The Devils coupled those with singles from Kyle Sandstrom, Steve Robinson and Corey Conklin into a 5-0 lead.
The run support was more than enough for Taylor Davis, who allowed four hits, walked three and struck out four through 6 2/3 innings.
“I was pounding the strike zone all day and trusting the defense behind me,” said Davis, who will pitch at Gonzaga this fall. “I threw everything I had in the tank for strikes.”
Davis, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, tossed 73 of his 108 pitches for strikes.
“Taylor did a great job, and that’s the guy he’s been for us almost all season,” Smith said. “He’s a great competitor and has worked so hard for that opportunity, and it was cool to watch.”
Tyler Parsons relieved Davis with two outs in the seventh, and closed out the contest allowing no hits and striking out two. Parsons, a regular starter during the season, made his second tournament appearance out of the bullpen to earn All-Tournament accolades.
“We felt having Tyler come out the bullpen gave us the best chance to win,” Smith said. “When we sat down and talked to him prior to the tournament, Tyler was all-in the second it came out of my mouth. That tells you what kind of kid he is.”
The Red Devils finished with eight hits, with tournament MVP Ricky Muzzy collecting two. Muzzy finished the tournament hitting .591 with a triple and four RBI.
“I’m a little surprised as I didn’t expect it as a freshman coming into the tournament, but I played well enough to earn it,” Muzzy said. “I’ve always been a postseason guy, and play well in front of fans and the big environment of the tournament. I like playing up to the competition.”
Also named to the All-Tournament team from LCC were shortstop Conklin, first baseman Cameron Campbell, catcher JT Strickler, third baseman Jordan Barchus and outfielder Steve Robinson.
Everett, which had five hits, was led by All-Tournament shortstop Nic Anderson with two hits including a double.
In the first championship game, Smith made the decision to start Jared Akin over Davis.
“Jared has done such a good job for us all season,” Smith said. “We felt if there was going to be a second game, we’d have a better matchup with Taylor’s stuff following Jared, rather than having Jared go after Taylor.”
The Devils took a 2-0 lead in the third, highlighted by consecutive singles from Conklin, Muzzy and Strickler. Akin took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, when he gave up a double to Trent Tinglestad, followed by a towering home run to right-center field from Peyton Cordova-Smith.
Everett added two runs in the fifth with a two-run single from Jaden Yackley, picked up a run in the sixth with an RBI double from Anderson, and got a run in the eighth on a solo homer from Jacob Prater.
Akin was lifted with two outs in the sixth inning. He threw 52 of his 82 pitches for strikes, allowed six hits, struck out two and walked one. His replacement, Trevor Huddleston, gave up two hits and struck out one in 3 1/3 innings.
The Devils had their chances in the ninth when they loaded the bases with two outs. Campbell slapped a single which scored one run, but the rally ended four pitches later when Everett left fielder Daniel Head made a sliding catch.
“When we lost game one, many teams would have panicked,” Smith said. “We started Jared just in case the situation came up, and it was good to see us respond like we did.”
LCC finished with nine hits. Muzzy had two singles and a walk, Conklin collected two singles, with Strickler and Campbell each adding a single and a hit by pitch.
Five of Everett’s eight hits went for extra-bases, including doubles from Tinglestad, Anderson and Daniel Head.
Also named to the All-Tournament team for Everett were first sacker Cordova-Smith, outfielders Steckler and Tinglestad, and pitcher Curtis Bafus.
Others named to the All-Tournament team were first baseman Tony Ortiz and utility player Bryce Mulcahy of Lane; Walla Walla outfielder Colton Peha and pitcher Clark Streby; Tacoma designated hitter Quinn Rawson; and Columbia Basin pitcher Hunter French.