Kenton Ridge falls to top-ranked Badin in D-II district final

ARCANUM — The Kenton Ridge High School baseball team’s postseason run ended at the hands of the state’s top-ranked team.

Division II state poll champion Hamilton Badin beat the Cougars 10-0 in five innings in a district final game on Thursday night at Arcanum High School.

Kenton Ridge junior Brayden Grimm and sophomore Seven Vannoy each had two hits for the Cougars, who finished the season 20-7.

“We won 20 games and faced some adversity,” said Cougars coach Aaron Shaffer. “We grinded and we overcame some adversity. That’s what I’m going to remember about this group. At the end of the day, we gave it our best shot and we came up short. We’ll hang our hats on that.”

Badin senior Rodney Rachel went 3-for-3 with a home run, double and six RBIS as the Rams improved to 28-1. They advanced to face Hebron Lakewood at 5 p.m. Thursday at Mason High School.

Grimm and senior Keller Fultz each reached base to open the game, but Badin senior Nik Copenhaver struck out the side to end the threat.

“We were hoping to get one, maybe two to put a little bit of pressure on them out of the gate,” Shaffer said. “That was the hope that we would get out on them a little bit. It would’ve made it a little bit easier on us, but (Copenhaver) did a good job. He got out of it.”

The Rams took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Badin freshman Chandler Taylor and Rachel. They extended the lead to 2-0 on a sacrifice fly by Caleb Jackson in the second inning.

The Cougars had runners on base in every inning, but weren’t able to get the key hit they needed to put pressure on the Rams.

“We had a couple more chances in the mid-innings to maybe push it back to two and maybe get it close and make it interesting, we just weren’t able to do it,” Shaffer said. “They were able to keep adding on and adding on. Pretty soon you think you’re in it, but it just got away from us a little bit.”

After senior Brycen Fox reached on an error, Taylor and Rachel hit back-to-back singles to make it 4-0.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth inning, Vannoy caught a fly ball and threw the runner out at home, but Taylor followed with an RBI single and Rachel hit a three-run home run to make it 8-0.

Rams sophomore Chase Luebbe hit an RBI double and scored on an error to make it 10-0 and seal the five-inning victory.

Copenhaver, a Washington State University commit, threw all five innings, allowing four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

The Cougars started sophomore Jake Beard, who hadn’t pitched in several weeks due to an injury. Kenton Ridge’s pitching staff has been hampered with injuries over the last few weeks, missing both senior Kegin Dotson and junior Caleb Obee. The Cougars were also without injured shortstop Logan Fyffe.

Beard threw 3.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits.

“We were very limited with what we could do on the mound and we knew that (Beard) hadn’t thrown in two-and-a-half weeks,” Shaffer said. “I’m proud of him. He went out there and competed.”

The Cougars will graduate four seniors from this year’s squad, including Fultz, Riley Niggemeyer, Aaron Bostic and Kegin Dotson. The senior class, which missed their freshman season due to COVID-19, won 57 games over the past three seasons. They also guided the program to a district final game for the first time since 2019.

“They had great careers here,” Shaffer said. “It’s never easy to lose your last one. The goal is always to win that last one. We just came up a little short to a good team.”

Kenton Ridge will return a strong group of players from this year’s squad. The junior varsity team also won all but one game, Shaffer said.

“The future is bright for the program,” he said. “It just stings a little bit now. We’ll be back next year ready to roll.”

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