Kenton Ridge baseball falls to Ross in district final

The Kenton Ridge High School baseball team’s postseason run ended in the district finals for the third straight season.

Hamilton Ross junior Zach Ungermann’s walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning was the only run of the game as the Rams beat Kenton Ridge 1-0 in a Division III district final on Thursday at Hamilton High School.

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“It was a great high school baseball game,” said Cougars coach Aaron Shaffer. “Those are fun to play in. We knew that runs were going to be at a premium today. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to score. We knew we had to take advantage of those opportunities if we got them. They just did a little better job and took advantage at the end. It’s tough for the guys. They can walk out of here with their heads high because they competed. That’s baseball.”

Cougars junior Kaelan Lemen had two hits for Kenton Ridge, which finished its season 22-6.

Kenton Ridge pitcher Collin Perkins threw all seven innings, allowing six hits with one strikeout. The Rams didn’t have a runner reach third based until the winning run came around to score in the seventh inning. Shaffer could only describe the efficient 6-foot-9 right-hander as “lights out.”

“He pounds the zone and we play defense,” Shaffer said. “That’s exactly what we did.”

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Ross junior lefty Tyler House kept the Cougars off-balance the entire game, pitching a complete game shutout. House allowed four hits and struck out eight for the Rams (23-4), who advanced to Thursday’s regional semifinal against the winner of Middletown Fenwick and Franklin.

“He did a nice job mixing up his pitches and keeping us off balance,” Shaffer said. “We did have a couple chances to push a run. That’s baseball. They took advantage of that chance they had in the seventh and that was all she wrote.”

The Cougars loss didn’t come without some controversy. Lemen singled to open the fifth inning and Andrew Sharp followed with a bunt attempt that was overthrown by catcher Keegan Nickoson, giving Kenton Ridge what appeared to be runners at second and third with no outs. However, the first base umpire called runner’s interference on Sharp for impeding the throw at first base. The Cougars eventually loaded the bases, but House struck out Matt Tateman to end the threat.

Kenton Ridge was called for runner’s interference again by the home plate umpire in the sixth inning on a bunt attempt by Justin Maurer.

In his 36 years with the program, longtime Cougars assistant coach Andy Fitzwater had never seen a such call, especially twice in one game, he said.

Shaffer argued both calls on the field and was told both players were running inside the baseline.

“I disagreed,” he said. “I didn’t see it the way they saw it. … I know on the first one the throw brought the catcher up the line, so he had to move over and hit our runner. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that called. We would’ve had second and third with no one out. I’m not sure I’ve seen two of those, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Kenton Ridge senior Alex Ward doubled with two outs in the top of the seventh, but House again struck out Calvin Dibert to end the inning.

The Cougars will graduate eight seniors who finished their careers with 85 wins, including three Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division championships and three district runner-up trophies.

“I can’t say enough about that group,” Shaffer said. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them for four years, on and off the field. It’s a great group of guys. It’s going to be hard to see those guys leave because you lose eight of them, it’s tough. We have some big shoes to fill next year.”

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