BATTLE GROUND — The Union Titans have made it look so easy in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League baseball race this season that their coach reminded his players that they will make it difficult on themselves if they think the rest of the season will be so simple.
The Titans on Monday got a two-hit shutout from pitcher Matt Olstead in a 9-0 victory against second-place Battle Ground, and they have now opened up a three-game lead with six to play.
Jack Bauer went 4 for 5 — including two hits in a six-run seventh inning — to lead the offense.
But until the big seventh inning, it was Olstead who was clutch when it mattered.
“I felt confident in the bullpen,” Olstead said of his pre-game warm-up. “I felt like I’d do pretty good today.”
Pretty good? Or even better than that?
Olstead struck out 10 Tigers. He opened the game with two in a row, then got two more during his biggest challenge of the game.
Up 3-0 with one out in the bottom of the fourth, Battle Ground got two runners on via Union errors.
“Errors happen,” he said. “I was still confident. I had good command of my off-speed (pitches). Getting those two out with two runners on was huge.”
The Tigers reached base on three errors and one walk in the final five innings.
Bauer, Union’s catcher, said it’s fun to play the position for a pitcher in the zone, working a fast tempo.
It also helps to break out on offense.
“It helps with my confidence a lot,” Bauer said of his day at the plate. “I was kind of slumping the last few games. I was just trying to keep my same approach I’ve always had, and it worked out.”
Bauer’s single scored Tanner Myers with the first run of the game in the third inning. The Titans got two unearned runs in the fourth. Jacob Allbee and Myers drove in runs in the frame.
Then the Titans opened the seventh with six hits in their first seven at-bats, including six extra-base hits.
Union improved to 8-1 in the 4A GSHL. Coach Ben McGrew told his players after the game that the cushion was big but they had to have the mindset of getting better, not sitting on the lead.
Battle Ground fell into a three-way tie for second place. The Tigers are 5-4 along with Skyview and Camas.