Kennedy baseball wins title by routing Umpqua Valley Christian
Kennedy baseball brought home the largest prize of them all on a dreary, rain-soaked Friday evening. At Volcanoes Stadium on June 3, Kennedy (27-3) defeated Umpqua Valley Christian 11-1 in six innings to win the 2A/1A state baseball championship.
It was a time of redemption for the Trojans. While the team from Mount Angel had defeated the Monarchs 4-0 early in the season, Umpqua Valley Christian defeated Kennedy in 2019 to win the state title. After a canceled season and a shortened season in spring 2021, the Trojans earned their title against the last OSAA-recognized state champions.
"It's big," Moffatt told reporters afterward. "We lost to these guys in extras the last time we played, and we felt like we had the best team in the state the last three years, and we didn't get to play for a state title, which kind of sucked with COVID. A lot of guys have come through the program, I think it's a big win for everyone involved."
Kennedy was led from the mound by junior Andrew Cuff, who pitched five innings and gave up just three hits and one run, two walks and two hit batters. Cuff also struck out six batters, no small feat given the rainy conditions that plagued the game.
The weather was a factor in the game. The mound had to be tended to, and Cuff had to remove the mud from his cleats in between pitches, but ultimately he and relief pitcher Ethan Kleinschmit overcame the elements.
"It was definitely hard," Cuff said. "The mound got pretty icky, I had to get a stake for my cleats. It was pretty hard and kind of slippery, the ball was kind of slippery."
Kleinschmit came in at the start of the sixth inning to close the show, doing so on a limited pitch count after he finished the win against Knappa in the semifinals. Moffatt described the junior relief pitcher as the best in the state at 2A/1A and Kleinschmit agreed.
"He has the trust in me, and the team feels best when I'm on the mound," Kleinschmit said, "so I think we better go to the best guy to do the job when the team feels the best behind him."
Umpqua Valley Christian's pitching and fielding struggled during the game, and Kennedy more than took advantage of it. Kennedy scored three runs in the first and third innings, and four runs in the top of the sixth inning. Part of the Trojans offense came on the 10 hits they accumulated, and part of it was the plethora of Monarch errors.
Junior first baseman Matt Hopkins led the team with four RBIs, a hit and a run, while Cuff and junior Brett Boen each had two RBIs. Senior shortstop Riley Cantu led the team with three runs. The offense continued to be excellent. Kennedy was the highest scoring offense at 2A/1A with 329 total runs over the course of the season.
According to Cuff, it's a grind that the team has been on all year.
"It means so much," Cuff said. "In the cages, we just work and work and work. Our offense has been really good this year, one through nine. Base hits after base hits, working on hitting has been really good this year."
Cantu was the lone senior to compete in the 2019 championship game, and his coach and teammates knew what it would mean to send their senior leader out with a victory.
"I'm super excited for Riley," Moffatt said. "We had probably the best team in the last two years, and we didn't get a shot to play with COVID. He's such a nice kid, and he broke our school record in batting average. He's been a great leader for the younger kids. I can't say enough about Riley, I am really sad this is the last time I'll get to coach him. Well, I'll get to coach him in the All-Star game, so that'll be fun. But I'm sad this is the end for me and him because he's a stud."
"Riley's been there forever with us, playing all the way up through elementary school and middle school and everything, and it felt good to send him off on a high," Kleinschmit said.
This is Kennedy's second baseball championship, the first coming in 2012. The Trojans were high flyers over the course of the 2021-22 school year, making the football championship game and the boys basketball team making the final eight.
According to Moffatt, also Kennedy's athletic director, that big game experience bled into the baseball title game.
"Football has been there a lot of times and just missed, and basketball missed by one shot basically because we lost to Western Christian by three points," Moffatt said. "So it meant a lot for those guys. And being in those games really made a difference for them because coming into this game I don't think we were as nervous as the other team was."
Kennedy 11, Knappa 1
Kennedy baseball started Knappa's season off with a 10-run loss and finished it the same way.
On Tuesday, May 31, the Trojans hosted the Loggers for a 2A/1A state semifinals matchup and defeated the away team 11-1 after five innings. Kennedy first defeated Knappa 10-0 on March 16 to improve to 2-0.
"I didn't think that would be the case this time, they're a good baseball team," Kennedy head coach Kevin Moffatt said. "I think things could have gone a little differently with just one or two plays, and it wouldn't have ended up like that. But once we got their first pitcher out of there that kind of changed the tempo of the game. Surprised for sure, but we hit as good as we've hit all year this year."
In the semifinal matchup, it was Ethan Kleinschmit who shined for the Trojans. The junior gave up just two hits and one run in his 4.2 innings pitched from the mound, collecting 10 strikeouts with no walks and no errors. At bat, Kleinschmit authored a strong offensive performance, scoring two runs and getting two hits and two RBIs.
"Ethan was the man today, I think he likes the big spots," Moffatt said.
The lone run Knappa scored came in the top of the fourth inning, but otherwise Kennedy was in total control. The Trojans scored one run in the second inning and three in the third, but it was the bottom of the fourth inning and six runs that really defined Kennedy's victory.
Senior Riley Cantu, junior Brett Boen and Kleinschmit each had multiple hits in the game, seven of the team's 12 hits.
Heading into the championship game, Kennedy (26-3) will once again face a familiar foe. Umpqua Valley Christian (25-4) and the Trojans tangled in the early preseason on March 22 with Kennedy walking away with a 4-0 win. In that preseason game it was Kleinschmit who got the start from the mound, striking out 11 batters against just two walks and no hits.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.