Lakeridge's Shane Hillier sure knows how to throw himself a good 'welcome back' party.
After battling the flu and a 102-degree temperature for a week, Hillier seemingly would have been too weak to pitch in last Thursday's American Legion game against the NW Realty Group (Lake Oswego). Making the outing doubly tough was the fact that Lake Oswego had TRL pitcher of the year Jared Van Hoon on the mound.
As expected, Van Hoon pitched well but the Titans used a couple of timely hits to grind out a 5-3 victory. In addition to the clutch hitting, Lakeridge also got a solid outing from Hillier, who kept Lake Oswego batters off-balance with a sharp-breaking curve ball.
Hillier finished the game by retiring seven of the last eight batters he faced. That run featured three strikeouts, including a game-ending strikeout on a nasty breaking pitch in the dirt.
'He didn't have his best stuff but he's just a really tough guy,' Lakeridge coach Allan Coyle said of Hillier.
Hillier gave most of the credit to his team's defense, which played almost error-free ball.
'I had some pretty good defense today,' Hillier said after the victory. 'They made the plays that needed to be made.'
The biggest play of all came in the fifth inning with the score tied at 3 and Lake Oswego on the verge of taking a one-run lead. But a great relay throw from Lakeridge shortstop to catcher Ben Janal prevented the Lakers' Cooper Mandelblatt from scoring the go-ahead run.
'He came up with a really nice relay at get that guy at the dish,' Coyle said of Doppelt.
Lakeridge then took advantage of its good fortune by scoring a pair of runs in the sixth on a defensive misplay by the Lakers. Steven Swinford set things up in that frame with a two-out opposite-field double and Hillier followed with a walk. Then, Jake Gregory looped a high, opposite-field fly ball to left that probably should have been caught. But the ball was misjudged by the Lake Oswego fielder, and Gregory wound up with a double that scored both runners.
'We should have been out of the inning and a routine fly ball goes over the (fielder's) head,' Lake Oswego coach Jake Anders said matter-of-factly.
'The bottom line is we just didn't come out and play,' Anders said after watching his team's record slip to a league-leading 6-1. 'We can't come to the field and expect teams to roll over for us.
'You've got to tip your hat to Lakeridge,' Anders said. 'Hillier did a nice job on the mound and he threw strikes.'
The key was Hillier's breaking ball, which had Lake Oswego hitters sometimes swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.
'I've kind of prided my pitching on my curve ball. I've worked hard on it,' Hillier said. '(Coach) Coyle has taught me some pretty good things.'
With both pitchers in a groove, neither team was able to score until the fourth inning. Doppelt broke the scoring drought when he ripped a two-out solo home run to left.
Lakeridge's lead was shortlived, though, as the Lakers struck back for two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Steve Smith started the frame with a single and Duncan White followed with a walk. A throwing error and a sacrifice fly then brought both runners home.
Lakeridge got the lead back in the top of the fifth after a lead-off single by Hillier and a double by Gregory. One batter later, Brandon Davis ripped a double off of the left field fence to score Hillier and Gregory, which made it 3-2.
The Realty Group tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Smith doubled home Jordan Frasier.
Moments later, Doppelt came up with his relay throw that kept Lake Oswego from taking the lead again.
Doppelt, who played college ball during the spring, has been a great addition for the Lakeridge legion team.
'I didn't know I was going to get him until about a week before the season,' Coyle said. 'With all of the numbers problems we've had, it was really nice to have him come in and take over at shortstop.'