Kennedy on top – Trojan baseball dominant on way to state title

June 2022 Posted in sports

By James Day

The Kennedy High baseball team took hold of this year’s Class 2A-1A tournament and ruled it from start to finish.

The No. 2 Trojans finished a superb run to their second state title under coach Kevin Moffatt with an 11-1 win June 3 against top-ranked Umpqua Valley Christian at Volcanoes Stadium. Kennedy outscored its four opponents 41-3 in the tournament, and the semifinals and finals both were stopped short of the full 7 innings by the 10-run rule.

Kennedy also won the 2012 title and finished second to Umpqua Valley Christian in 2019, the last COVID-free baseball tournament until this spring. Kennedy and its baseball brethren did not play at all in 2020 and took part in a truncated season in 2021 without official OSAA championships.

“I don’t know if I was ready for that dominant of a run, but I thought after we beat Santiam Christian (6-1 on May 16) we kind of found another gear, and our hitting was really good from that point on,” Moffatt said. “We had disciplined approaches, great two strike at-bats where we hit the ball the opposite way constantly. And we played great small ball. Oddly enough we did not hit one home run all season. I would be curious if that has ever happened (at JFK).  I tell the guys sometimes that is a rally killer, whereas small ball keeps things moving and the pressure is always on.

“It was so nice after the past few years to have a real season.  I think these guys wanted to win it for the guys that graduated the last two years because we feel we had a great shot those two years to win it as well.  Unselfish group, tough minded, like baseball, and all contributed. That leads to a fun season whether you win a title or not.”

And you get the sense that there is more to come from this group. Riley Cantu is the lone senior starter on the squad, which is dominated by a series of versatile, opportunistic juniors.

Here is how the dominance looked on the stat sheet against UVC:

– Cantu scored 3 runs and stole two bases.

– Junior Andrew Cuff pitched five innings of 3-hit ball with 6 strikeouts. He scored 2 runs and knocked in 2 more runs with a pair of sacrifice flies. He was hit by a pitch twice, with his improbable boxscore line reading 0-2-0-2.

– Junior Matt Hopkins knocked in 3 runs with a ground ball, a single and a sacrifice fly.

– Junior Ethan Kleinschmit scored twice, stole two bases and set down the Monarchs in order in the bottom of the 6th. Kleinschmit also pitched 4⅔ innings of 1-run ball in the semifinal victory against Knappa.

– Junior catcher Charlie Beyer was 2 for 4 with a run, an RBI and a stolen base.

– Junior left-fielder Brett Boen also had a pair of RBIs.

– Junior infielder Luke Beyer scored a run and stole two bases.

– Centerfielder Kleinschmit and rightfielder Owen Bruner, another junior, also threw out runners on the bases to end UVC rallies.

Opportunistic? The Trojans collected 9 hits (all singles), stole 7 bases, were hit by pitches 4 times, drew 3 walks and hit 3 sacrifice flies. They took control of the game early by scoring 3 runs in the first inning and 3 in the third.

“Offensively we were really good in this game,” Moffatt said. “We had zero strikeouts. I am not sure how many times we have done that in our history, but when that happens you usually win. Even our outs were loud outs.  We ran the bases well and played very good situational baseball and not just in this game, but in the entire playoffs. We really hit well, and it was 1-through-9 in the order. Everyone did something at the plate. We applied pressure to them early, and they didn’t handle it very well.”

And they played errorless ball behind Cuff and Kleinschmit on a cloudy, cool, wet day.

“Andrew Cuff was a bulldog on the mound,” said Moffatt. “The conditions were not ideal, but he gutted it out and got big outs when he needed to.”

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