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Trojans make second straight trip to finals, lose 11-6 to streaking Wildcats

COURTESY PHOTO: ANDRE PANSE - The Kennedy baseball team celebrates around senior Cole Boen (17) in the teams 2-1 victory over Dufur on May 18, propelling the Trojans into the championship double-header on May 22.For the seven holdovers from Kennedy's 2019 state baseball runner-up, last week's 11-6 loss to the Glide Wildcats in the championship game of the 2021 2A baseball showcase tournament was a tough blow to endure once again.

For head coach Kevin Moffatt, he believes the Trojans have no reason to to feel regret, six of whom leave will graduate and leave behind a footprint as one of the best teams to walk through the halls of John F. Kennedy High School — championship trophy or not.

"It's an unbelievable legacy," Moffatt said. "They were certainly not happy to take the second place trophy home, but it's an incredible run."

Kennedy's loss to Glide on May 22 was the only blemish on what had otherwise been a perfect season up until that evening. The Trojans had won 18 straight games heading into the title game, adding to an unreal three-season run for the team's graduating class of players that features Isaiah Basargin, Clay Beyer, Cam Biegel, Dylan Kleinschmit, Brady Traeger and Cole Boen. Since entering the program in 2018, the Trojans have built a 69-9 record, including a state semifinal appearance in 2018 and state championship losses in 2019 and 2021.

"If we had a full season this year and last year, they would have won 100 baseball games," Moffatt said. "We're never on that end of it very often while they've been in high school. Football, basketball, baseball – they've been in all of them. It's a tough conversation, but they have nothing to hang their heads over."

Kennedy's 18-1 season was largely uncontested in the regular season, save for a few tight contests. The Trojans had outscored thei r first seven opponents 104-6 before scoring a 2-1 clip over North Marion — which went on to place third in the 4A showcase.

Kennedy was challenged again in a 4-3 win over league rival Western Christian a week before the start of the state showcase tournament.

COURTESY PHOTO: ANDRE PANSE - Holding the state semifinal and championship game as a double-header forced teams to reach deep into their bullpen, with Kennedy tapping nearly half its roster to throw against either Western Christian or Glide.Those games proved to be pivotal in preparing the team for the 16-team bracket — which forced programs to play four games in a five-day span. After a 9-3 win over Central Linn in the tournament opener on May 18, Moffatt had little choice but to throw his ace, Kleinschmit, against a Dufur team that had lost one game up to that point.

"We knew we had to pitch Dylan to beat Dufur, so we had to take our chances there," Moffatt said. "I don't think we beat Dufur without Dylan pitching."

Kleinschmit, who had allowed just three walks all year, gave the Trojans just enough of an edge to take a 2-1 win over the Rangers and advance to the championship double-header on May 22.

With his top pitcher unavailable, Moffatt relied on his bevvy of arms to take down Western Christian 4-3 in the semifinal to forge a championship showdown with Glide immediately after.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-1 lead after the first two innings, and held strong against a spirited comeback attempt by the Trojans to claim the championship trophy.

"We threw seven or eight guys on Saturday, and they all did a nice job," said Moffatt, who was favorable toward the new double-elimination format for the rounds leading up to the championship game.

COURTESY PHOTO: ANDRE PANSE - Sophomore catcher Isaac Berning puts the tag on a would-be run in the Trojans' 4-3 win over the Western Christian Pioneers in the semifinal game on May 22."I really liked the format. If we could somehow do that where it was something over the course of two weeks, I think that would be a great way to run a state tournament," he said. "I don't know if I'd do it in four days like we tried to pull off, but that was the only way to make it happen in a covid year."

Despite the loss, Moffatt wanted his players to know just how incredible of a run they had been on, considering all the obstacles they overcame. The team jumped immediately into the season on April 12 with no practice, three days after playing their football finale, and proceeded to rip off six straight weeks of unbeaten baseball.

"I was surprised we went undefeated as long as we did – we've had some good teams, and none have gone that far without a loss," Moffatt said. "Not many teams get to experience an 18-game win streak. Usually a team doesn't dominate like that. There's so many things that can happen. "

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