Kenton Ridge blanks Chaminade Julienne to win first district title since 2008

ARCANUM — The Kenton Ridge High School baseball program hoisted the elusive gold district championship trophy for the first time in 16 years.

“It’s nice to finally get the right color,” said Cougars coach Aaron Shaffer. “I’ve seen a lot of the silver ones over the years. … We had to get one with the gold on it. (The silver trophy) is not the way you want to end it.”

Kenton Ridge junior Jake Beard threw a complete game one-hitter with 10 strikeouts as the Cougars beat Chaminade Julienne 3-0 in a Division II district final game on Thursday night at Arcanum High School.

Cougars senior Braden Smith hit a solo home run, senior Caleb Obee had a double and Beard and senior Logan Fyffe each added RBIs as Kenton Ridge won its eighth straight game to improve to 22-5. They advanced to face Central Buckeye Conference rival Jonathan Alder (26-2) in a D-II regional semifinal game at 5 p.m. Thursday at Mason High School. The Cougars last district championship came in 2008, Shaffer’s first season as head coach. Kenton Ridge advanced to a district final game seven times, but weren’t able to bring home the gold trophy.

“It’s been a long time,” Shaffer said. “We’ve had a lot of frustration in this game over the years. We’ve been so close. It seemed like anything that could go wrong did. We’ve lost some close ones, we’ve had some injuries and it just never worked out. This is a tough district. It’s not easy to move on. I was confident in this group.”

Junior Charlie Hoagland had the lone hit for Chaminade Julienne, which finished the season 17-11.

“We knew we had a tough spot coming in (against Beard),” said Eagles coach Todd Barhorst. “It appears that he’s been their best pitcher all year and they were able to get by Tuesday without using him. We knew that was going to be a challenge. We felt really good about our guy and we’re really happy with the way (CJ sophomore Isaac Sullivan) pitched. We didn’t sustain offense enough. We had three or four hits right at gloves and what can you do about that? Kenton Ridge is a good team, we’re a good team too, today was just their day.”

With one out in the first inning, Cougars junior Zach Deel walked, stole second base and moved to third on a ground ball by Obee. Beard followed with a single, scoring Deel to give Kenton Ridge an early 1-0 lead.

“We knew runs were going to be hard to come by, (Sullivan) can throw,” Shaffer said. “He’s a dude on the mound. We were just trying to scratch one early any way we could.”

In the second inning, Cougars senior Bryce Smith singled and junior Nathan Cox walked. Fyffe followed with a single to left field, scoring Smith from second base to make it 2-0.

In the fourth inning, Braden Smith crushed a home run over the left field fence to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead. The senior knew it was gone “right off the bat.”

“I had my brother (Bryce Smith) telling me right before I went up there that if we got one more run it was over,” Braden Smith said. “He told me if I got on, he was going to bring me in. I told him I would take care of it myself and popped one out.”

Three runs were all Beard would need. The junior threw 69 of his 100 pitches for strikes with two walks.

“I’m proud of Jake,” Shaffer said. “He’s been our guy all year. You can see he’s got that bulldog mentality. He wanted it. He told me he wanted the ball. Here’s his mentality — he heard us talking about who was first relief and told us we weren’t going to need relief. That’s his mentality. That’s what you’ve got to have.”

Hoagland got the Eagles lone hit on a ground ball that bounced over shortstop Logan Fyffe’s head in the sixth inning, putting runners at first and second base. Beard struck out the next batter to end the Eagles threat.

“I just trusted my defense and tried to throw as many strikes as I could,” Beard said. “Everything was moving. I was setting up my curve and changeup with my fastball.”

CJ will graduate three seniors — Cam Brewer, Christian Gongora and Jackson Frasure — that won 79 games during their careers and advanced to the D-II state semifinals last season.

“We’re not satisfied with the district runner-up,” Barhorst said. “That’s just something to be proud of as a program. We’ve won four district titles in the last seven or eight years. For a district runner-up to feel like a disappointment, we’ve got to be proud of that. I’m thankful for my three seniors. They’ve had great careers and have sacrificed a lot for the team.”

The Cougars advanced to face rival Jonathan Alder, which beat them 5-3 on May 22 and 10-0 on May 24. The winner will advance to a D-II regional game against either Hamilton Badin or Cincinnati Indian Hill at 5 p.m. Friday at Mason.

“The teams know each other very well,” Shaffer said. “There’s going to be no secrets. We know them and they know us. It’s going to be about who makes the little plays and gets the key hits. (Alder’s) pitching is top notch. It’s going to have to be a game like this where we scratch and claw and get runs.”

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