KEIZER — The Umpqua Valley Christian baseball team never trailed Kennedy on Friday — even though the Trojans had a great opportunity to take the lead.
The Monarchs overcame a ferocious seventh-inning rally attempt from Kennedy with a run-scoring eruption of its own at Volcanoes Stadium, claiming the program’s third Class 2A/1A state championship with a 10-5 victory in nine innings.
“I told those guys (that) we’re going to be relentless from the first pitch to the last pitch,” UVC coach Dave York said.
The Monarchs needed to be, as they gave up a two-run lead in the seventh inning before scoring five unanswered runs in the top of the ninth.
“The resilience that this group has is something that we really hold on to,” UVC senior Aaron Buechley said. “Our character wins us games and that’s what it did today.”
Umpqua Valley Christian (27-3) had a 5-3 lead going to the bottom of the seventh inning. The Monarchs were one out — and one strike — away from ending the game, but two errors and a double drove in two runs for Kennedy (28-3) and sent the game to extra innings tied at 5-5.
Buechley, UVC's starting pitcher, got the first two hitters in the bottom of the seventh to fly out to left field. The senior induced a routine groundball to his younger brother, second baseman Evan Buechley, but the sophomore over-threw first base and kept Kennedy’s comeback chances alive.
“I just said ‘keep your head up. I still love you. We got to win this thing,’” the elder Buechley told his younger sibling after the error.
Kennedy’s Demetre Marseille followed with a line drive to right field that got past a sliding catch attempt by Jacob Mesa. The double drove in one run and put the game-tying run at second with two outs.
UVC had another chance to end the game in the seventh, but junior KC Pettibone dropped a pop-fly in shallow center field that allowed the Trojans to tie the game.
Pettibone took over on the mound in the eighth inning for UVC, and the right-hander tossed two shutout innings and didn’t allow a hit to earn the win in relief.
“I was really frustrated with myself,” Pettibone said. “(Closing the game) was my chance to prove myself and make up for the mistake that I made.”
The Monarchs retook the lead in the top of the ninth. Kennedy relief pitcher Brady Traeger hit two of the first three batters and, two batters later, Sam Guastaferro drove in Jacob Luther with an RBI fielder’s choice to put UVC ahead 6-5.
A bases-loaded double by Isaiah Heard pushed two more runs across for the Monarchs. Evan Buechley got some redemption as well with a two-run single that capped the scoring.
Aaron Buechley made the final out on a flyball to center field — one that was reminiscent of the fly that was dropped in the seventh.
“My eyes were locked in on that ball,” Buechley said. “And as soon as it was in my glove, it was a death grip. I was not going to let that thing go. It’s in my bag right now.”
Aaron Buechley finished 1-for-4 with two RBIs. Evan Buechley and Isaiah Heard drove in two runs each, and CJ Gale was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs.
Bruce Beyer was 3-for-4 with an RBI for Kennedy.
The title was the third for UVC coach Dave York, who said every championship is great in its own way.
“Every one feels good. Every one is awesome,” York said. “Mainly for the kids, the families and the school.”
Umpqua Valley Christian will have six seniors graduate, but can return as many as six starters from the title game next season.
UVC 302 000 005 — 10 9 2
Kennedy 100 020 200 — 5 6 4
A. Buechley, Pettibone (8) and Guastaferro; Kleinschmit, Traeger (5), Beyer (9) and Valladares, Kleinschmit. (5). WP — Pettibone (12-0). LP — Traeger. 2B — Pettibone (UVC), Heard (UVC), Marseille (K). 3B — Marseille (K).