Pitching has been the strength of the Lower Columbia College baseball team in recent memory, and this year is no different for the two-time defending Northwest Athletic Conference champions.
“At LCC it’s always been that pitching piece which wins championships,” LCC coach Eric Lane said. “Mitch Lines struggled in his first outing, but bounced back and had a great outing in his second start. Eli Schubert is trying to find a way as a freshman starter.”
Lines (6-0, 1.94 earned run average last season) was named to the NWAC West Region first-team, the all-NWAC second-team, and the ABCA/Rawlings Pacific Association Division All-Region second-team. He’s joined in the rotation by sophomores Yancy Bird (6-2, 2.77 ERA, West Region second-team), Justin Solt (5-0, 3.95), and Schubert.
“I’m happy with some of the things we’ve done, but we’ve also shot ourselves in the foot with some bad mistakes and errant throws,” Lane said. “We need to take care of the baseball.”
All-West Region first-teamer Noah Andrews (.355 batting average, two home runs, 34 RBIs last year) anchors the outfield, while West Region second-teamers DeShawn Johnson (.291, 16 RBIs) and Hunter Cook (.330, 25 RBIs) lead the infield.
“Our outfield play is tremendous, and the infield has been better than I thought it would be,” Lane said. “Our offense is faster, and we can do things on the basepaths we couldn’t do last year.”
But despite the solid numbers, Lane acknowledges the Red Devils are lacking in leadership and mental toughness.
“Overall there needs to be a better mentality,” he said. “We have to figure out what’s best for this team to get better. This team has done some great things, and there’s been things done which are hard to swallow.”
With three championship crowns in the last four seasons, Lane admits there’s a target on the Red Devils’ backs.
“I told the guys the last team to win three in a row was LCC, and that was more than 20 years ago (1995-96-97),” he said. “It’s not easy to do, and some of the guys are oblivious of LCC baseball in the championships.
“These guys have to write their own destiny and what it takes to be a third year in a row champion.”