This team wasn’t supposed to be this good, this fast. They were a playoff club a year ago and had nine players leave the program to play NCAA Division I baseball. There were some holes to fill.
Tacoma Community College rolled over Green River CC on April 5 and 6 for a four-game sweep. When the dust settled from the combined 48-8 beat down, the Titans could boast the best record in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges.
TCC moved to 19-1 on the season and more importantly 6-0 in the NWAACC West Region. Fourteen straight wins since a loss to Walla Walla on the road. Fourteen straight wins giving up an average of two runs per ballgame.
A coach is always challenged at the community college level because they’ve only got two years to work with a player. Some years more than half of the team will be graduating or transferring. With players leaving for the likes of Mississippi State University, the University of Washington and the University of Alabama-Birmingham last year, Titans head coach Ryan Mummert didn’t know what to expect from this team.
“I didn’t think we were going to be as talented as we were last year,” Mummert said. “We lost a bunch of good players. Nine Division I players last year. I knew it was going to be difficult replacing those guys. We’ve just had some freshmen that are now sophomores make a big jump and we had some freshman come in that we were anticipating making an impact for us and they have.”
Coach Mummert is now in his fourth season at TCC and while his teams have included 17 future Division I baseball players, they’ve also won their share of ballgames. With the sweep of Green River, Mummert now owns a 108-45 record as the Titans’ skipper and it looks as though he’ll be adding to that win total dramatically, if his club maintains anything close to their current pace.
Apparently quality baseball players are seeing a developmental launching pad at TCC and are taking full advantage of the opportunity and experience.
“They all come here for the same common goal of wanting to win a bunch of games and having an opportunity to play at the highest level afterward,” Mummert said. “I just think that the competition that these guys create every day at practice has allowed them to prepare themselves to play at a high level and the results of 19-1 are kind of showing that right now,
“But obviously there’s still a lot of baseball left to play.”
Whether it is pitching or hitting, the Titans’ individual statistics shed more light upon the amazing season so far. Nine players are batting over .306 and four pitchers, all logging over 20 innings of work, boast earned-run averages at 2.95 or less. Other teams are finding nowhere to rest against TCC.
Freshman pitcher Justin Vernia leads the team with a 5-0 record and an 0.28 ERA in 31.2 innings with 28 strikeouts and only six walks. The 6-1 right-hander has given up just one run this season and he may not be the best pitcher on the team.
Joey Gamache, a 6-5 sophomore is following up a solid 8-1 first season at TCC with more of the same and better.
The big lefty is 4-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings with 24 strikeouts and just seven walks.
“Gamache has been as steady as ever,” Mummert said. “He’s doing exactly what thought he was going to do and that was picking up where he left off last year.
“The whole staff has been quality and they’re difficult to hit. The pitching staff has been the most consistent part of our team.”
What about the hitting?
Freshman outfielder Jeremy Spring is riding a 14-game hitting streak and is now leading the team with a .442 batting average. He has struck-out just five times in 52 at-bats while drawing eight walks.
Leadoff hitter Connor Cloyd is leading the team in runs (26), stolen bases (12) and walks (15) and boasts a .338 batting average. The sophomore outfielder has just eight strikeouts in 65 at-bats.
CJ Hicks has been steady as a rock batting .328 in the two or three position in the order and has made a huge jump from last year according to coach Mummert.
Brett Neilsen originally signed to become an Oregon Duck but ended up at TCC, leading the team in runs batted in and at-bats. The freshman is batting .333 and is just another reason why this team is not just matching last year’s squad, but possibly surpassing it.
In 20 games TCC has committed just 16 fielding errors. All of these statistics tell a tale of how and why this team is sitting high upon the NWAACC standings and why they have such high hopes for the remainder of the season.
“It’s a real tribute to these guys,” Mummert said. “They’ve been buying into everything we talk about. We talk about being good students, great athletes and being good people off of the field.
“That definitely makes it fun for a coach.”
Chances are they will drop another game or two along the way. It’s a long season, not quite at the midpoint for TCC. However, as it stands right now, at 19-1 they’re the hottest team in the Puget Sound, at any level.
TCC hosts Grays Harbor CC April 12 for a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. and Centralia CC April 18 at 4 p.m. The Titans play their home games at Minnitti Field on the Corner of 12th Street and Pearl.