Independence baseball district title 2021

For the first time since 2013, the Centennial Cougars (18-14) captured the Region 6-4A championship 14-6 against the Ravenwood Raptors (23-15) on the road Wednesday night.

“It means everything,” said Centennial head coach Rob Baughman. “Last year we did not have a great year. We started off the year not so hot. These kids started to believe and trust one another. The thing I like about these guys is that they are a genuine team.”

“We were in ninth place out of nine teams in our district last year,” said Centennial sophomore Max Weyenberg. “This year we came out and did this, and it means everything to us.”

“We dug ourselves a hole in the top of the first,” said Ravenwood head coach Nico Gregoli. “Offensively, I thought we swung the bat really well. For the most part, I still feel pretty good about my team.”

In the top of the first inning, Centennial got off to a fast start piling up seven runs on two bases-loaded walks, a two-run RBI single from junior Malaki Moore, and a bases-clearing double by senior Ryan Connally to lead 7-0.

Centennial junior starter Ryan Yates held Ravenwood scoreless in the bottom of the first, getting out of a bases-loaded jam with two strikeouts and a flyout to center.

The Cougars added a run in the top of the second with an RBI single from junior Jack Scearce to stretch the Centennial advantage to 8-0.

Ravenwood got on the board with two runs scoring on a RBI triple by senior Nic Raum and a throwing error by Centennial to cut into the Cougars margin 8-2 in the bottom of the second.

Centennial added two runs on an RBI single from Connally and a ball put in play on a groundout by senior Nolan Wells increasing the Cougars lead to 10-2 in the top of the third.

Yates stranded a runner on first for Centennial, recording a strikeout in the bottom of the third to keep Ravenwood at bay 10-2.

Ravenwood senior reliever Joe King kept Centennial scoreless in the top of the fourth, holding a runner at second by tallying a strikeout and forcing a flyout to center field as the game stayed at 10-2.

Ravenwood inched closer to Centennial in the bottom of the fourth with RBI singles by seniors Myles Denton and Blake Bevis along with a fielding error by Centennial to make the score 10-5.

“They (Myles and Blake) are both in a really good spot with their swing and how they are seeing the ball right now,” said Gregoli. “They just go about their preparation the right way.”

The Cougars extended their advantage in the top of the fifth on a two-run single by sophomore Max Weyenberg to increase their lead 12-5.

“We just had the energy and the good ab’s (at bats) early on,” said Weyenberg. “That is what really helped us throughout this game.”

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Ravenwood collected another run with a ball put in play by Denton, scoring the runner from third on a groundout to get within six, 12-6.

Centennial’s bats continued to sizzle in the top of the sixth inning with an RBI single from Connally and a run scored as a result of a bases-loaded double play, ballooning the margin for the Cougars to 14-6.

“The first inning they helped us out with a couple of walks, but we got several clutch hits to score seven runs,” said Baughman. “Every time they came back and scored, we were able to make a mark the next inning.”

In the bottom of the sixth inning, sophomore Josh Whitby was able to keep Ravenwood off the board, drawing two pop outs and a caught-stealing at third by Centennial catcher Jason Bennett.

Ravenwood junior reliever Andrew Moser tallied a clean inning for the Raptors in the top of the seventh, forcing a groundout to second and a double play turned by the infield to stay at 14-6.

Whitby sealed the deal for the Cougars, drawing a flyout to center and two strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh as they won the Region 6-4A championship 14-6.

Centennial’s Whitby and Yates allowed only six runs total in seven innings against the Raptors.

“Ryan (Yates) and Josh (Whitby) were absolutely phenomenal tonight,” said Baughman. “Ravenwood is a good team. We had to keep playing every inning just to make sure we pulled it out.”

“They have the mindset for everything,” said Weyenberg. “They came out and were ready. They are competitors, so they are going to give you their best every single game.”

Ravenwood will travel to Hendersonville for the sectional round on Friday at 7 with a spot in the state tournament on the line.

“Hendersonville will present a very good challenge for us,” said Gregoli. “They have had one heck of a season. We know that they will have a hostile environment, and we are going to have to be ready to play.”

Centennial will host Mount Juliet on Friday at 7 p.m. in a sectional matchup. The winner will advance to the state tournament. 

“We are focused on playing like us,” said Max Weyenberg. “When we play like us, good things happen.”