Kenton Ridge suffers another heartbreaking loss in baseball district title game

Kenton Ridge against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at Miamisburg High School. David Jablonski/Staff
Kenton Ridge against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at Miamisburg High School. David Jablonski/Staff

Kenton Ridge’s disappointment in the Division II district championship game continued Saturday with a 9-5 loss to Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy at Miamisburg High School.

Since winning five straight district championships from 2004-08, the Cougars have lost the game five times in the last 10 years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2017 and 2018).

“‘We’ll keep trying,” said Kenton Ridge coach Aaron Shaffer, who finished his 11th season. “We’ll keep banging away. We’ll get one one of these days.”

» PHOTOS: Kenton Ridge vs. CHCA

This was a game Kenton Ridge will remember as one it could have won. Walks, errors and missed opportunities cost the Cougars in the early innings as they fell behind 3-1 after one inning and 4-1 after two.

“It was a struggle from the start,” Shaffer said. “Plays we’ve made all year we just didn’t make today. We played catch up all game. We got it back to a one-run game in the middle innings, and it just felt like we were behind and couldn’t get over the hump. I do like the way our guys competed. They never gave up.”

The Cougars took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Drew Wichael scored on a single by Calvin Dibert.

Cincinnati Hills responded with three runs in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of an error by the Cougars, two walks and a hit batter. The Eagles extended their lead to 4-1 in the second inning.

» EARLIER COVERAGE: Dibert pitches Kenton Ridge to sectional championship

Kenton Ridge had a chance to trim the deficit in the third. Jaxon Wright was thrown out at home plate by Cincinnati Hills center fielder Adam Rakestraw to end the inning after a single by Wichael.

Shaffer didn’t question his decision to send Wright. He always wants to put pressure on the defense in that situation.

“I thought wet field and wet baseball, I’m sending him,” Shaffer said. “He made a great throw to the plate, right on the money.”

In the fourth, Zach Schneider drove in Bailey Armentrout with a sacrifice fly. Two batters later, a single by Matt Tateman scored Dibert, cutting the deficit to 4-3. The Cougars had a chance to add more runs in that inning, loading the bases with two outs, but a groundout ended the threat.

Cincinnati Hills got both runs back in the bottom of the fourth. Lucas Rotello drove in one run with a triple. Rotello then scored on a dropped pick-off throw at third base.

The Eagles (24-5), who reached the state semifinals last season for the third time since 2005, advanced to the regional semifinals. They’ll play Tippecanoe, Ross or Taylor at 2 p.m. Thursday at Mason High School.

Kenton Ridge finished the season 19-6 and loses six seniors, four of whom started Saturday.

“It’s always hard to see them go,” Shaffer said. “They were that first class to win four league titles in a row, so we’re going to miss them, but we’ve got young guys ready to go. I think we’ve set ourselves up to be successful next year and the year after. The future looks bright.”

Softball update: Kenton Ridge's district final game against Monroe was postponed for the second straight day by rain. It will be played at 5:30 p.m. today at Brookville High School.