Kennedy returns to state baseball championship after 1-0 win over North Douglas
Ninety nine times out of 100, a baseball team that is on the business end of a no-hitter is walking away with a loss.
Count the Kennedy Trojans among the exceptions.
Kennedy pulled out an improbable 1-0 victory despite being held hitless by the visiting North Douglas Warriors (22-7, 14-4 SD4) on May 28, advancing to the championship game of the 2019 2A/1A Baseball State Playoffs for just the second time in program history.
The Trojans (28-2, 18-0 Special District 2) are making a return to the finals after winning the program's only title in 2012 thanks to a superb defensive performance combined with lights out pitching from junior Josh Valladares, who went toe-to-toe with North Douglas starter Colter Anderson.
"I would say it's been our M.O. all year," Kennedy head coach Kevin Moffatt said. "Our defense has been pretty damn good, and today it was the best it's been."
Valladares held North Douglas to two hits of their own and allowed just one Warrior runner past second base thanks to a number of key defensive plays, including a pair of base runners caught stealing second by catcher Dylan Kleinschmit and a game-saving diving catch in the third inning by centerfielder Bruce Beyer that prevented a would-be runner from scoring.
"I have to thank my defense, they were great," Valladares said. "Bruce's catch at center and Dylan's two picks at second – that saved the game. I'm sure I would have given up some runs without that."
Valladares struck out seven and walked four batters in addition to the two hits, going the full seven innings for the Trojans. It was the 10th shutout of the year for Kennedy, which has given up just 70 runs total this season — the third-fewest among all 2A/1A teams in the state. Although Valladares is the team's third pitching option behind starters Kleinschmit and Brady Traeger, Moffatt had no qualms about throwing him out in a state semifinal against a North Douglas team that was coming off a 12-3 win over the No. 2 Monroe Dragons in the quarterfinals.
"We kind of view them as all the same," Moffatt said. "Josh has been throwing really well lately, and he doesn't get rattled under big situations. He threw a gem today."
The two teams opened on relatively even footing, unable to get much offensive traction through the first two innings. North Douglas found an opening in the third, as Anderson led off the inning with a walk and advanced to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt from teammate Lauren Kalkowski. After Valladares induced the next batter to go down swinging for the second out, North Douglas junior Tyler Kallinger followed with a towering fly ball into the left-centerfield gap.
As Anderson rounded third intent on scoring the go-ahead run, Beyer chased down the fly ball and made a diving leap, extending his glove to snatch the ball feet from the ground to keep the game scoreless.
"That catch from Bruce is as good as I've seen," Moffatt said.
The Trojans returned the favor in the bottom of the frame.
Designated hitter Camryn Biegel led off with a sharp grounder up the left side of the infield that bounced through the shortstop's legs, and he advanced to second on a passed ball in the next at-bat. Kleinschmit moved him over to third on a sacrifice bunt that the Warriors misplayed, allowing Kleinschmit to reach first safely as well.
After a line drive out by Sam Grosjacques, Demetre Marseille hit a sacrifice grounder to shortstop, driving in Biegel for the game's only run. Beyer popped out to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Although Valladares didn't give up a hit until the sixth inning, he got into a few tight situations in the fourth and fifth innings and was bailed out twice by Kleinschmit.
The first time came in the fourth when Valladares walked Caleb Parks with one out on the board. Parks attempted the steal on the next at-bat, but Kleinschmit's throw was on the mark to second baseman Angel Dela Rosa, who applied the tag just before Parks reached safely.
Valladares walked the next batter, Koldan Frieze, who advanced to third on a pair of passed balls before the Trojans got out of the inning on a routine grounder to Marseille at third base.
Valladares then walked Tanner Parks to open the fifth and followed by striking out Anderson. In the chaos of the play, Tanner Parks attempted to swipe second, but a heads up Kleinschmit found Dela Rosa once again, turning the strike out into a double play.
The two teams continued to trade scoreless frames. Kennedy had one last chance to pad their lead in the sixth when Traeger hit a grounder with two outs that went between the third baseman's glove — the Warriors' third fielding error of the game. Anderson walked Rocco Carley to put runners on first and second, prompting North Douglas head coach Jeff Davis to turn to senior Brian Erickson to get the final out, completing the no-hitter.
"That's a good team," Moffatt said. "They made every single play."
In the top of the seventh, Valladares gave up leadoff single to Koldan Frieze, but followed by getting Wyatt Beckham to hit a grounder to Grosjacques, who tossed to Dela Rosa and turned the double play.
Valladares put down Tanner Parks swinging for the final out, putting Kennedy into the championship game after falling short in the semifinals a year ago.
The Trojans will take on the Umpqua Valley Christian Royals (26-3, 16-2 SD4), who rallied from a 9-0 deficit to beat two-time defending state champion Knappa 12-10 to advance to their fifth championship game in school history.
The 2019 2A/1A Baseball State Championship will be held at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.