It might not be as dramatic as a conference tournament title or a substate-final victory, but it does show staying power.
In the 20-game grind that is the Hawkeye Ten Conference regular-season baseball schedule, Lewis Central finished 18-2 after Friday’s 9-1 and 10-7 sweep of Creston, and claimed the outright league crown.
Sophomore Jonah Pomrenke led the offense by reaching base in all 10 plate appearances. He finished the twin bill 7-for-7 with two walks, and he was hit once.
It’s the third Hawk-10 crown in five years for the Titans (21-8), who ended Harlan Community’s two-year reign.
Since top pitcher Drake Nettles left for Iowa State on June 11 to start his college football kicking career, the Titans have maintained enough consistency to hold off all contenders. The team has three other seniors: Jake Powell, Alex Watson and Johnathan Hemmingsen.
“Three years ago they won the conference championship, but I wasn’t a part of that team, so it’s really cool to be a part of one,’’ said Powell, who entered the game batting .490 and went 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the opener. “The whole team’s worked hard. We just have great chemistry and we work really well together.’’
Lewis Central coach Lee Toole said his squad has overcome plenty, with Nettles’ early departure and injuries.
“This team has battled so much adversity this year, so for them to accomplish what they’ve accomplished this year, it’s a credit to them,’’ he said. “The team stuck together. Their attitude, their leadership – they’re a fun group to coach, a fun group to be around. A tip of the cap to them.’’
In the opener, junior left-hander Bryson Sharon allowed two hits in six innings of work before giving way to Tyler Huttmann. The slender Sharon struck out 11 while walking two and hitting two.
Watson finished the opener 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Pomrenke added three hits, while Easton Dermody and Nolan Miller joined Powell with two hits apiece.
In the nightcap, L.C. starter Jordan Wardlow struck out nine in his three innings, but battled his control. Colbey Roth had two hits and three RBIs for the Titans.
“This is huge,’’ Powell said. “This really pushes us into the postseason.’’
Lewis Central is the No. 2 seed in Substate 8 of 4-A, behind top-rated Johnston (23-4). The Titans will open with fifth-seeded Abraham Lincoln.
Despite its conference title and high seed, not many outside the Titan dugout probably expect them to reach Des Moines. Lewis Central hasn’t played in the state tournament in 14 years.
“I’m just hoping we can get to Johnston,’’ Toole said. “A.L. is capable of knocking us off, you bet they are.’’