It wasn’t the prettiest baseball.
History will forget that.
What history will remember is that Kennedy completed a state-record-tying 31-0 season on Saturday afternoon at the OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union 2A/1A baseball state championships with a 10-0, six-inning win over Blanchet Catholic at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer. Owen Bruner’s second hit of the day, a long drive over the center fielder’s head, completed a four-run sixth inning that helped the Trojans repeat as state champions. Kennedy won last year’s title, 11-1, over Umpqua Valley Christian, also in six innings.
Kennedy’s 31-0 record matches Grant Union’s 2005 team for most wins in one season in state history without a loss. The Trojans became just the fifth team since records were kept, starting in 1970, to complete an undefeated season with a state title.
Kennedy led the state in fewest runs allowed and was second statewide in runs scored. The Trojans won games by an average score of 10-1, a margin they bettered in the championship game against a very talented, but young, Blanchet team. If ever a baseball squad made a statement for being best ever, Kennedy did it today.
“I would argue that we’re the best 2A team ever,” said Kennedy coach Kevin Moffatt. “Our playoff runs the past two years have been dominant. Today we were so deep, our 5-6-9 guys were getting key hits. Top to bottom I think we’re as good a team as there has been.”
Senior LHP Ethan Kleinschmit pitched six scoreless, striking out nine, to get the win for Kennedy, which blanked a Cavalier team that came in having scored more runs than any other team in Oregon in any classification. Kleinschmit limited Blanchet to four hits total with a fastball/slider mix that proved effective most of the afternoon. He also benefited by the defense behind him, including senior catcher Charlie Beyer, who was 3-for-3 cutting down base stealers; and Andrew Cuff, who made a diving stab going to his left at 3B.
“I have to give most of the credit to my catcher,” Kleinschmit said. “He threw three guys out in crucial situations.”
OFs Brian Breyer and Bruner led the 11-hit attack for Kennedy with two hits and three RBIs each. 1B Matt Hopkins had a great day with three hits, including a double, a walk and one RBI. Cuff chipped in with two hits and an RBI.
“I could not be happier because he is the nicest kid,” Moffatt said of Hopkins. “This year he started hot and hit a lull. He works his tail off. To see what he did today, I could not be happier for him.”
The Trojans collected 11 hits overall, reached six more times on walks and hit batsmen and took advantage of six Blanchet Catholic errors to score in four of the game’s six innings.
Blanchet Catholic had just four hits, one each from Noah Hancock, Carson McNally, Mitch Wort and Griffen Mucken. The Cavs (28-3) had just one senior, catcher Spencer Kowalski, on the roster.
“We played a really good team that was focused and fine-tuned and ready to go,” said Blanchet coach Dave Winstead. “Up until this championship game, we’d only had three errors this entire postseason, including our District championship. So obviously nerves and inexperience came into play. We played our hearts out to get here and I’m looking forward to next year. I’m very proud of everyone, especially our lone senior who cultivated this team and made it what we want to be.
“Next year starts today. It’s about us taking this in and understanding what we need to do to take the next step.”
After Kleinschmit set Blanchet Catholic down 1-2-3 to start the game, Kennedy got the scoring started in the bottom of the first off of McNally. The sophomore righthander got himself into trouble by walking two of the first four batters he faced. Those walks sandwiched his terrific defensive play on a foul pop by Charlie Beyer that Kowalski lost in the sky around home plate. McNally found it and got a glove on it but only controlled the ball on the “rebound.”
That might have been the highlight of the inning, but LF Brian Beyer was able to punch a 3-1 pitch to left center to score Ethan Kleinschmit. Hopkins followed with an RBI single through the left side that played Andrew Cuff with the inning’s second run.
McNally settled down and matched zeroes with Kleinschmit over the next two innings, keeping the game close. Kennedy tacked on an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth, on an infield single from Brett Boen, a throwing error, wild pitch and sacrifice fly from Bruner; but the game was still within reach heading to the fifth for Blanchet and its prolific offense.
The Cavaliers had its chances in the fifth after McNally lined a one-out single to right center, but Charlie Beyer gunned out the pinch runner trying to steal. That proved costly, as Mucken laced one over Bruner’s head in right for a two-out double that would have scored the runner.
The flood gates opened in the bottom of the fifth, as Kennedy took advantage of two massive errors at the shortstop position to score three big runs. The inning started with a dropped pop fly near second base and an Andrew Cuff single through the hole between third and short, which precipitated a BC pitching change, with sophomore Drew Bartels coming on. Bartels did not get the help he needed, as Blanchet’s new shortstop threw a ball wildly trying to cut down a runner at home, which allowed two to score. The final run of the frame came on a 4-6 force out that could have been a double play had the shortstop tried to get the runner at first.
“I wasn’t super comfortable until the fifth,” Moffatt said. “I felt like we were having good at bats but were leaving guys on base. I felt like we would score more runs, and we eventually did.”
The top of the sixth came to an end when Charlie Beyer threw out a pinch runner trying to steal third down 6-0, the third consecutive inning the senior catcher rang up a would-be base stealer. That set the stage for the Trojans to walk off to history in the bottom of the sixth.
“We’d heard about their catcher all week and he’s really good,” Moffatt said. “I think Charlie wanted to prove something today. Best catcher I’ve ever had.”
“I just wanted to get the outs and keep the goose egg on the scoreboard,” Charlie Beyer said.
The final frame started with Ethan Kleinschmit legging out an infield single for Kennedy. Charlie Beyer was then hit by a pitch, putting two on for Andrew Cuff, whose double to right center plated Ethan Kleinschmit. A pick off attempt gone awry scored another. Brian Beyer then singled up the middle to score pinch runner Henry Beyer with the game’s ninth run with no outs.
One more run and Kennedy would have the merciful win.
Hopkins delivered his third hit of the game to put runners on the corners. Brody Kleinschmit was then walked intentionally to set up a force at home. With the infield and outfield in, the strategy worked for one batter in a fielder’s choice force at home. But it did not work for Bruner, who hit a first-pitch tank way over the center fielder’s head for the walk off win.
Moffatt said that his team didn’t feel pressure despite all that was riding on the outcome of the game. If anything, it was the opposite.
“When we got to the yard, our guys looked loose and free and they looked a little tight,” Moffatt explained. “Getting two on the board early obviously helped.”
“We’re really good at holding leads,” Winstead said. “We just never had the lead.”
Kleinschmit said that this win wasn’t just a “today” win or a “this season” win; it was a “forever” win.
“The boys have worked hard and we fought for this,” he explained. “Our friend group is pretty tight. I think we’ll be together forever.”