Lower Columbia claims 14th, third straight NWAC baseball title
By Sam Barbee for NWAC
LONGVIEW -- The jubilation had to be halted.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, with Lower Columbia leading Everett 2-0, Drew Barlow appeared to make the game-ending double play, the fourth of game.
But the umpires wanted to take a second look. They ushered the Red Devils off the field, their smiles still beaming after they thought they had claimed their 14th NWAC title and third straight.
It wasn’t a short review. With so much on the line, the call had to be sure.
Fans around the umpires, hearing the discussion, started celebrating — again. They removed their headsets and an up-raised fist confirmed what had already been thought: the LCC Red Devils were conference champs.
“It’s always nice to win the last one,” Red Devils coach Eric Lane said. “It was crazy, man. Obviously there are so many emotions going throughout the entire game. It builds up to all of sudden you’re champions then the next you know video replay is a part of a junior college baseball tournament. I would’ve done the same thing on their side, just to make sure.”
After falling on Friday night 2-1 to the same Everett Trojans, and having to win twice on Monday, LCC had work to do.
The Devils easily dispatched Linn-Benton and Tacoma before meeting Everett, the team atop the NWAC poll for much of the the year.
Monday’a opener quickly got out of reach for Everett, with LCC racking up 14 hits, five doubles and 10 runs while walloping the Trojans 10-2.
DeShawn Johnson was the offensive star. He went 4-5 with three doubles, pushing his weekend average to over .800 (it finished at .700, just shy of the tournament record of .720) and was named MVP.
“I just kept keeping at it,” Johnson said. “I was struggling for a little bit, but when the tournament came I was just saying to myself, ‘Gotta put all effort into it. All my boys are battling for me, so why not battle for them?’”
In the opener, LCC scored first in the bottom of the second before Everett tied, but the Red Devils scored eight unanswered runs to win going away. Drew Barlow had two RBIs. Colin Floyd drove in two with a double. Johnson drove in three. GJ Hurst and Noah Andrews plated runs. LCC starting pitcher Mitch Lines struggled early, racking up a high pitch count, but settled down and went six solid innings, yielding to Alex Brady who got the three-inning save.
It set up a winner-take-all final under the Pacific Northwest sun.
This one was a dandy.
LCC scraped across just two runs — one driven in by local product Zach Threlfall and both scored by Floyd, who had been struggling mightily in the tournament until the weekend’s final day, when he scored the two most important runs of the season.
“One thing we tell the guys (is) you don’t know who’s gonna play the role that day,” Lane said. “If you’ve had a bad couple games, you have to be able to eliminate that because you might have to come up in a big situation.”
But it wasn’t without stress. It never is.
Rance Pittman relieved LCC starter Justin Solt in the eighth, but the challenge came in the ninth.
Pittman hadn’t pitched in the tournament to that point, but came in nearly lights out.
He struck out the first batter he saw, then allowed a single to Marcus McCannel. But Barlow started an around-the-horn double play to close out the eighth cleanly, setting up the magical ninth.
Carlie Larson walked with one out, then Sam Linscott hammered a double into the left field corner, putting the tying run in scoring position and with the winning run at the plate in Austin Hauck.
He drilled one to Barlow at third, who gloved and raced Larson to the bag.
It was initially ruled an out, and after video review, the call was upheld and LCC walked away the champ.
“I remember looking down and when I touched third he was, like, 12 inches off the bag,” Barlow said. “So I knew when they went to replay it was gonna be an out.”
Surrounded by family, friends and fans, the Red Devils smiled and posed for photographs and hugged people, especially each other.
A local kid who had the season’s biggest hit, Threlfall reflected on his two years in blue and red, both of which claimed titles.
“It’s a different type of feeling, man,” Threlfall said. “I can’t describe it. Coming here when I was little, from 10 to 15 years old, coming and watching these games, I can’t really get it to sink in that I’m on this field doing what they did five or six years ago. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
MVP - DeShawn Johnson, Lower Columbia
DH - Kenny MczCormick, Everett
Catcher - Zach Threlfall, Lower Columbia
Catcher - Justin Lutz, Spokane
Shane Jamison, Lower Columbia
Mitch Albin, Everett
Drew Barlow, Lower Columbia
Trevor Paro, Lower Columbia
Takeshi Kubota, Everett
Justin Vandebrake, Tacoma
Chase Matheny, Lower Columbia
Sam Linscott, Everett
Christian Padilla, Spokane
Paul Falco, Everett
Mitch Lines, Lower Columbia
Logan Gerling, Tacoma
Justin Solt, Lower Columbia
Gabe Smith, Everett
MVP DeShawn Johnson and Coach of the Year Eric Lane