Darren Brown is a good example for Linn-Benton Community College baseball as it tries to focus on one day at time during what could be a record-breaking season.
Arm problems last spring limited Brown, now a sophomore pitcher for the Roadrunners, to just two innings.
Even with a 4-1 home win against Southwestern Oregon on Tuesday that gave LB its 15th straight win, Brown is the reminder for the Roadrunners to keep their heads down and push forward.
“Nothing is promised,” he said.
Brown delivered four big outs that got the ball to closer Trevor Wells, who worked around some trouble in the ninth inning to get his eighth save of the season.
LB (27-2, 14-1 Northwest Athletic South Region) finished the day with a 1.76 team earned-run average, second in the 28-team NWAC.
“This is the best pitching staff I’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Ryan Gipson, the Roadrunners’ fourth-year head coach. “They work as hard as any pitching staff I’ve had and they definitely feed off each other.”
Brennen Lauffenburger got Tuesday’s start. He allowed one earned run and two hits over five innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
LB has a two-headed approach to the set-up role with Jordan McDaniel and Brown, and both took the mound.
McDaniel went 1⅔ scoreless innings but got into trouble in the seventh with his team ahead 3-1. He hit his second and third batters in a five-batter stretch. A fielding error loaded the bases, and McDaniel drew a force at home on a grounder before giving way to Brown.
Brown struck out Conner Larson to end the threat. In the eighth, Brown allowed a one-out walk but got the next batter to ground into a double play.
Brown says he has no nerves when he’s in pressure situations “because I have a whole team that’s going to back me up, a team that’s going to get me some runs the next inning. You’ve just got to trust that they’re going to do their job.”
Lauffenburger got the win to improve to 7-0 with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts.
He’s not alone as a starter with stellar numbers.
Brock Townsend (5-1, 1.65, 38 innings), Jose Chavez (3-0, 1.80, 30 innings) and Kevin Reilly (3-0, 1.89, 38 innings) have put up a lot of zeroes.
On the back end, Wells was a junior college All-American in 2017 while leading the NWAC with 11 saves.
“We’re really pitching it. We’re really playing defense, in the infield, from behind the plate and the outfield,” Gipson said. “As an offense we’re not striking out, and it’s keeping the pressure on opposing defenses.”
Tuesday, both offenses were held down early in the game by a pitchers’ duel.
Gipson tipped his cap to SWOCC starter Will Shaw, who held the Roadrunners without a hit the first two times through the lineup.
LB tied the game at 1-all in the fourth without a hit, aided by a hit batter and an error on a pickoff before consecutive groundouts got the run across.
The Roadrunners finally got a hit on a Richard Mascarenas two-out single through the left side in the fifth.
They found some traction against Shaw in the sixth, starting with back-to-back singles by Damon Peters and Cole Hamilton to lead off the frame. Fridtjof Fremstad advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt before Cole Carder’s double to center scored two.
LB added a run in the seventh on Fremstad’s sacrifice fly against reliever Braxton Beerbohm.
Gipson said his players began to recognize Shaw’s sequence. Carder said it was also a little more than that.
“That guy was good, he mixed speeds well,” Carder said. “I think when we got to him he relied more on his fastball and we were just sitting on that. We were able to make it work with that.”