An inning to forget kept the Kettle Run Cougars from winning their first region championship in baseball history.
Kettle Run led Riverside by one run during the bottom of the fourth Friday, but a few mistakes proved costly in the Class 4C tournament title game as the Rams knocked off the Cougars 5-4 in Leesburg.
With a 2-1 lead, one out and runners on second and third, Cougars pitcher Zach Ewald threw a wild pitch that allowed the lead runner to score. Then Ty Reichard scored from second on the play when a Kettle Run player retreived the ball from the backstop only to overthrow it in a panic.
“We made some boneheaded plays there and just started throwing the ball around the yard,” Kettle Run coach Ty Thorpe said. “One bad inning was the difference in us having the championship trophy and this runner-up one.
“You can’t allow a team like that, that opportunity because they’re going to take advantage of it every single time,” he said.
So the Cougars’ winning streak ended at seven games and they will enter state quarterfinals Tuesday with a 15-9 record and a tough opponent in Region 4D champion Liberty Christian (25-1).
“We’ve got to play better than this,” Thorpe said. “We’ve got a heck of a hill in front of us. It’s going to be tough, so we’ve got to play our best game of the season if we want to keep moving.”
In 2016, Liberty Christian defeated Kettle Run 4-3 in the Cougars’ only other region final appearance.
On Friday, Riverside clinched the region title in the fourth inning when John Heltebran hit an RBI single for a 5-2 lead, but Kettle Run scored one run in the fifth and one in the sixth.
“You’ve got to keep competing and fight back, and they did that,” Thorpe said. “They could have tucked their tails and just: ‘Oh well, we’re going to lose.’”
In the sixth, Cougars first baseman Jack Riley scored from third on a wild pitch, setting up an opportunity to tie the game with two outs and runners on the corners, but center fielder Matt Twooney struck out looking to end the opportunity.
“They chipped away, made it interesting at the end and that’s all you can ask for,” Thorpe said. “You’ve got to give yourself a chance to be there at the end and we did that. Just got to capitalize; play a little bit better. But we’ll be alright.”
Catcher Jake Heeman led the Cougars by going 1-for-4 with two RBIs.
For the Rams, second basemen Patrick Sheffield was 1-for-1 with an RBI single, two walks and a run scored while starting pitcher Wyatt Shenkman limited the Cougars to six hits across 5 2/3 innings. He allowed four runs and two walks, but struck out three.