CENTRALIA – Almira/Coulee-Hartline came out Saturday at Wheeler Field and managed to complete the toughest task in all of sports when it defeated Colton 8-4 to cap an undefeated season while capturing a State 1B baseball title.
ACH posted a 2-0 lead with two outs in the first inning after Dalton Kenter singled, advanced on an error and came around to score on a single by Brayton Schafer. Maguire Isaak scored later in the inning when Colton’s catcher threw down to second base, instead of first, on a disputed dropped third strike.
Colton found a way to even things up in the fourth, though. That inning began with a single from Reece Chadwick and continued with a single by Parker Druffel. Kian Ankerson drove Chadwick home with a fielder’s choice and Matt Wolf brought Druffel around with a single.
That inning was one of the only rough patches for ACH starting pitcher Kenter, though. Kenter, who had given up only one earned run on the season before Saturday, tossed 6 2/3 innings for the win, racking up eight strikeout.
While Kenter settled into a groove, the ACH offense remained plucky and opportunistic, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth to retake the lead, and adding three in the fifth and one in the sixth for good measure. Kenter was a big part of that offensive output, helping himself out with a pair of singles, a stolen base and a run.
“When they tied it up 2-2, I brought the guys in and I told them, ‘Hey, baseball’s a game of momentum,’ and all of a sudden it feels like they’re crushing us. But we’re still tied 2-2, and we came out and got two back and came out and got three more. It was nice,” ACH coach Mike Correia said.
The Warriors used a pair of squeeze bunts by Chase Gerard and Tim Hahn to score two of those runs. RBIs from Hahn, Gage Burchill, Hayden Loomis, and Cooper Correia did the rest of the damage for ACH.
The game was marred by defensive lapses, with both teams committing five errors. The errors’ damage broke down evenly on the scoreboard.
Those are the type of breaks that the Warriors benefited from all year long, but Correia was well aware that his team’s luck could run out at any time, especially when trying to capture an undefeated championship season.
“I prepared the team by saying we know how easily we could have a few losses. In baseball, the ball goes one way or the other and things are completely different, so we kept that in reality,” Correia said. “Just like this game, from Colton’s standpoint, or our standpoint, I mean five errors on each side. You’d like to take a lot of that back if you can.”
In the seventh, the Wildcats again got to Kentner, who was on fumes and trying for a complete game. Matt Wolf walked to lead off the inning and spark the last-chance offense. Tom Wolf singled to drive him in. Matt Wolf later scored on an infield error for the Wildcats’ final run of the season.
As Kenter neared his daily pitch limit, senior southpaw Ryan Sample entered in relief for ACH and promptly registered a strikeout to end the game.
“I was frustrated (to come out), but I was happy to turn it over to the senior.” Kentner said. “He’s been a great No. 2 (pitcher) for us. He’s been there all year. He’s been pitching well, and I wouldn’t have rather had it be anyone else than him.”
No stranger to championship game condolences, Colton coach Pat Doumit tried to put his best positive spin on the disappointment.
“Today it was about our seniors. Cameron Bean had four good at-bats for us and he came in and threw really well for us at the end. Tom Wolf made one defensive gem out in left field, and almost had another, and he had two good at-bats,” Doumit said. “Our seniors, outside of the final score, those guys don’t have anything to be disappointed in today.”
Colton starting pitcher Reece Chadwick tossed 4 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs to go with three strikeouts. Bean threw the rest of the game for Colton and also allowed a pair of earned runs.
“It’s tough. You keep saying, ‘We finished second in 2008 and 2010,’ and you try to tell yourself that with years and some perspective it will be okay,” said Doumit, whose team took the second-place trophy with a record of 16-7-1 this season. “But I don’t know how much more time and perspective I need because those losses are still tough and I think today will be as well.”
As for Kentner, the junior pitcher who anchored the ACH pitching staff throughout their historic season, he said his teammates came into the title game with a simple approach.
“We just had to stick to our focus. We had one goal. We didn’t care if we went undefeated. We just had one goal. That’s all,” Kentner said about his team’s single-minded championship aspirations.
And as for the goal next year?
“Same goal,” Kentner said.