The Lakeridge Titans American Legion baseball team was eliminated from the post-season last week but not before they pushed a team full of defending state champions to the brink.
Lakeridge had a difficult draw in front of them, taking on Wilson High School's legion team. The Alpenrose Red Sox featured a stacked line-up consisting of virtually the entire team that won last spring's 4A state baseball championship.
But if the Titans were intimidated, it didn't show.
It was a tough first game for Lakeridge. Wilson struck early and often and, although the Titans' bats had been hot in recent games, they were quieted in the series opener.
The Red Sox outslugged Lakeridge all afternoon and ended up out-hitting the Titans 15-6. In the end Wilson captured the first game 13-3, setting up a must-win situation.
It would have been easy for Lakerdige to simply roll over in its next game against the heavily favored Red Sox but the Titans would not go down without a fight.
Once again, Wilson's bats exploded as the Portland team showed why it arguably possesses the most feared line-up in the state.
Lakeridge's pitching staff struggled all evening to get Red Sox batters out but, in fairness, no one in the state has done a particularly good job accomplishing that task.
However, this time, the Titans matched Wilson hit for hit. In fact, they even bested them.
In a game that lasted well over four hours and could have easily been mistaken for a hard-fought football game by simply looking at the score, Lakeridge came away with a bizarre 27-21 victory.
The teams combined to knock out 49 hits and, at times, fans were legitimately surprised when an out was recorded. Shane Hillier, Sean Dipola and Steve Swinford all had the unenviable task of facing the Wilson line-up.
However, Lakeridge's bats were even stronger. Ben Janal was particularly hot in the game, blasting a pair of home runs. Swinford, Brandon Davis and Grant Force also tallied home runs in the slugfest.
That victory set up a winner-take-all third game on Monday. While Lakeridge's pitching staff faired considerably better in this contest, Wilson still managed to put the ball in play well enough to earn the victory.
In the end, the Titans fell 9-6 as Lakeridge's bats couldn't come up with an encore.
The loss capped what was still, ultimately, an impressive summer season for the Titans. Wilson is one of the favorites to take home the legion state championship and there were certainly some nervous Red Sox fans in attendance on Monday.
New coach Allan Coyle guided Lakeridge through a daunting league schedule and into the post-season and hopes that his team's success this summer will carry over to the 2007 season.