MT. ANGEL — You can go ahead and memorize the names – Burnard, Miller, Dragoo, Kelly, Palek, Rusinovich, etc. … they’ll be back. And most of them more than once.

But for now, the Knappa Loggers will say good-bye to the 2012 season, which came to a close Tuesday afternoon in Mt. Angel, as Kennedy scored a 9-2 win over the Loggers in a Class 2A state semifinal baseball game.

The Trojans move on to the state championship Friday vs. Weston-McEwen at Volcanoes Stadium, while Knappa’s season ends at 20 wins, nine losses.

For the first time since 2007, championship weekend in Keizer will be without a team from Clatsop County.

While Knappa’s loss was disappointing, Loggers’ head coach Jeff Miller called it a successful season. After all, the team with the pink socks and the old-timey uniforms began the season at 3-4, but won 12 of their last 14 games, and advanced to the Final Four for the second time in three years.

“It’s been a great bunch of kids,” said Miller, who had just one senior in the starting lineup Tuesday. “This is as much fun as I’ve ever had coaching a group of kids. They are a joy to be with. We had some leadership from the older kids that we haven’t had in a while, and I think it made a mark on the younger kids. There were some positives to build on.”

As for the game, the buzz saw the Loggers ran into Tuesday had a name: Franky Rodriguez.

Kennedy’s senior pitcher allowed just three hits, with 12 strikeouts and four walks. He had Knappa batters off balance all day, as the Loggers tied their season low with just two runs.

“It’s an awkward motion,” Miller said of Rodriguez’s sidearm delivery. “And he has good velocity. It’s not overpowering, but it’s tough to pick up. He throws that little cutter/slider deal, and he’s tough.

“He pitched a great game, they made the plays, and they put it in play.”

Still, it was hard to tell which way the game was headed after two innings.

Rodriguez struck out the first three batters he faced, then he opened the bottom of the first with a leadoff triple.

Teammate Gavin Shuman drew a walk and stole second to put runners at second and third with no outs.

But that’s as far as the Trojans would get in their first at-bat as Knappa starter Trevin Morgan retired the next three in order to escape the inning unscathed.

And the Loggers were the first to score as Austin Palek drew a leadoff walk to start the second inning, took second on an errant pickoff throw and reached third when he managed to avoid the tag in a rundown between second and third.

Nick Landwehr executed the squeeze bunt to perfection and Palek scored for a 1-0 lead.

But the lead would not last for long.

A leadoff walk, a two-out double by Wyatt Rodriguez and another walk had the bases full of Kennedy runners in the bottom of the second, and this time the Trojans came through.

Shuman singled to right field, scoring two runs to give Kennedy the lead for good.

The real damage came in the third, when Kennedy’s Ty Sawyer led off with a single, followed by a pair of walks to load the bases once again.

Two hit batters forced in two runs, and Shuman lined a two-run single to left field for a 6-1 lead.

Palek replaced Morgan on the mound, but a passed ball scored another run for a 7-1 advantage.

The Trojans tacked on two more runs in the fifth on three hits and one Knappa error, as the lead reached 9-1.

Knappa finally managed to get to Franky Rodriguez again in the sixth, when Kyle Kelly had a leadoff double to center, took third on a wild pitch, then scored on Palek’s sacrifice fly.

The Loggers went down swinging in the seventh as Tyson Burnard singled to left field, before Kelly eventually flied out to center field to end the game.

Morgan, Kelly and Burnard had the only Loggers hits.

“To win this type of game, you have to execute, and you have to have a certain level of preparation and intensity that I’m not sure we had at all times today,” Miller said.

“All the credit in the world to Kennedy,” he added. “The better team won today. I wish we would have given ourselves a chance. We just didn’t give ourselves much of a chance.

“We didn’t hit the strike zone early and we walked six or seven in the first three innings, and that’s a tough way to start,” he said. “Palek did a great job of coming in and holding the game down, but they exposed us a bit. They’re a good team and I wish them the best. I hope they take it. Kevin (Moffatt, the Trojan coach) is due and Kennedy is due. They’ve been a good team for a while.”

The Loggers, meanwhile, were by far the youngest team in the Class 2A/1A state tournament this season. With four freshman starters and their top two pitchers returning next year, the future looks bright for Knappa baseball.

“People say, ‘wait ‘til next year’ and that type of stuff, but that doesn’t mean anything to a senior who’s graduating,” Miller said. “And nothing is ever guaranteed. Yes, we have some young, exciting kids, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. If we want the feeling that Kennedy has right now, we have to put in the work and get better. I think we have some kids who will do that.”

And as always, Logger fans will follow their team anywhere, as they showed up in force for Tuesday’s playoff.

“I’m always proud to be from Knappa, and when you come to these games, you see why,” Miller said. “We went to The Dalles for that first-round game (against Horizon Christian of Hood River) and we had twice as many fans there as they did.

“Kennedy had tremendous fans today, but we were well-represented, too,” he said. “We’re thankful for that following that we have.”

     

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