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Titans take league's No. 4 seed

by: submitted phot, Lakeridge’s Grant Force, left, follows through after hitting a home run during Tuesday’s league tournament game against Clackamas. The Cavs won the contest 10-4.

The Lakeridge Titans might be peaking at just the right time, even when you include one inning in which the team's defense resembled the Keystone Cops trying to play baseball.

Facing an almost must-win situation, Lakeridge responded with one of its best games of the season on Tuesday when the Titans knocked off Putnam 11-5 in the second round of the league playoffs. That victory guaranteed Lakeridge a spot in the metro area playoffs, which get underway on Saturday.

Yet, for a short time, the length of the second inning to be exact, the Titans seemed as though they were in trouble. Their defense botched virtually every attempt they had in that inning, and in the process they gift-wrapped a 4-0 lead for Putnam.

'Yeah, we dropped a couple fly balls and booted a couple ground balls,' Lakeridge coach Allan Coyle recounted after the game, still with a measure of disbelief.

It was one of those situations where the coach feels like pulling out his hair.

'I was considering that, but instead I went after their hair,' Coyle said jokingly of his players. 'They decided they wanted to keep (their hair). So, we started playing some defense after that and started hitting the ball.'

It was easy for the coach to laugh after the fact. That's because he had been a witness to an incredible offensive display that put 11 unanswered runs on the board.

After giving those four runs away, the Titans righted the ship a bit in the bottom of the second when they trimmed Putnam's lead to 4-1. Then, they put up three more runs in an impressive third inning, which tied the game at 4-all.

Lakeridge then took the lead for good in the fourth when Jeff Doppelt roped a double to the right-center field wall to score Ben Janal. The Titans never looked back after that.

It was the fifth, though, that was the inning to remember. That's when Janal crushed a three-run homer to left and Steven Swinford followed three batters later with a two-run shot to deep center. That put the Titans in front 10-4 and essentially put the game out of reach.

The Titans added one more tally in the sixth when Janal took first after being hit by a pitch, then stole second, stole third and scored on a throwing error by the Putnam catcher.

After all of those runs by the Titans, it hardly seemed to matter than the Kingsmen scored a run in the seventh on a misplayed fly ball. What stood out the most that game was the way Lakeridge pounded the ball.

'We're on a good hitting streak right now,' Coyle noted. 'I'd like to keep that going. That's for sure.'

The Titans also got an excellent game from Shane Hillier on the mound. The stat line will show he gave up five runs in the game, but only one of them was earned and even that one was questionable. After getting past that rocky second inning, he recorded back-to-back three-up, three-down innings (in the fifth and sixth).

'He's just tough,' Coyle said of Hillier. 'He just goes out and competes every time. He's an amazing guy and a great kid.'

Winning that game was the key achievement in Lakeridge's tournament because it guaranteed the Titans a spot in the metro playoffs. A loss against Putnam would have moved the Titans into a playoff for fifth place, and even a win in that game would have forced Lakeridge to win two play-in games to make the metro playoffs.

Unfortunately, Lakeridge's league tournament run ended with the win over Putnam. Later that evening, the Titans played Clackamas for third place and the Cavs won the game 10-4. That loss gave Lakeridge the league's No. 4 seed, which will send the Titans up against one of the top-ranked teams when the metro playoffs begin on Saturday.