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THE YEAR OF THE DAWGS: Redbank Valley Adds Another District 9 Trophy to the Case, Outlasting Moniteau in an Extra-Inning Thriller, 2-1, for Baseball Title

DuBOIS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Breckin Minich had a simple plan.

Just put the ball in play.

When the Redbank Valley junior stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on first and second and two outs, Minich wanted nothing more than to end the marathon against Moniteau.

Minich did just that, connecting on the first pitch he saw for a sharp single up the middle. The throw carried Warrior catcher Keagan Book away from the plate and Brock George slid home with the winning run for Redbank Valley in a drama-filled, 2-1 win for the District 9 Class 2A championship on Tuesday evening at Showers Field.

“I’m just trying to stay calm, get my pitch and drive it back up the middle,” Minich said. “This means a lot, man. This group has been through so much. We’re family on the field and off the field. We’re a tight group.”

Redbank won its second consecutive district title. This one was far more intrigue-filled than the one last year in which the Bulldogs got a big early lead against Karns City and cruised.

The Bulldogs scored a run in the bottom of the first when Mason Clouse led off with a triple and scored on a groundout by Braylon Wagner.

That was it for Redbank until Minich’s game-winning hit three hours and one 51-minute rain delay later.

Moniteau took advantage of wildness from Bulldog starter Jaxon Huffman to score a run in the top of the third inning. Huffman walked the bases loaded around a sacrifice bunt and fly out before Dawson Cook singled home a run to tie the game at 1-1.

That was it for the Warriors, although they had plenty of chances.

The best one came in the top of the sixth when Ian Ross and Cook led off the inning with back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners with no one out.

Derrik Creedon-Moyer pinch ran for Cook, who was pitching in relief of starter Dawson Wallace, and took off for second. Owen Clouse jumped off the rubber and ran toward Creedon-Moyer, throwing to Wagner at short. At the same time, Ross sprinted toward home. Wagner gathered and threw a bit high to Minich at the plate, but the catcher leaped, snagged the throw and tagged Ross out on his way down.

Owen Clouse then got a pop out and strikeout to end the inning with no runs scoring.

Moniteau’s coaching staff insisted Owen Clouse had balked. The four umpires gathered for a conference and determined he did not.

The Warriors were unhappy about that interpretation during the rest of the game, as well as following it.

Owen Clouse was brilliant in relief, throwing five dominant, shutout innings. He gave up just two hits and struck out six while walking two. His fastball was clocking in the 82- to 85-mph range throughout.

“He has a lot of heat behind his fastball,” Minich said. “He was excellent. A lot of people can’t catch up to his fastball because he throw so hard. And the better hitters at the top of their order, we started them out with a curveball to get them a little anxious.”

Cook was also stellar in relief of Wallace.

Cook threw 6⅔ innings, giving up just the one run on six hits. He struck out five and walked two and also wiggled out of several jams to keep the game deadlocked.

“I know it’s not fully my fault, but I feel bad for the senior,” said Cook, just a sophomore. “We’ve been talking about this forever and I couldn’t capitalize. We needed to get one run across. We had a couple of chances to get one, but we couldn’t capitalize.”

Redbank Valley did, and in doing so added yet another trophy to the crowded case at the school.

It was the fourth D9 crown for Redbank Valley boys’ teams this school year to go with soccer, football and basketball.

Owen Clouse was a member of all four of those teams.

“Honestly, the Clouses are special kids and special athletes,” said Redbank Valley baseball coach Craig Hibell. “Owen got a little bit of the shine today. When we turned to him, we knew he threw hard and we knew he threw strikes. We knew he was a mature kid who could handle the pressure.

“I feel like this is the icing on the cake for these seniors,” Hibell added. “I’d love to see what the Clouses bedroom looks like with all those district titles they have. Those kids deserve it. They are the best students in the school and the most well-behaved and we’re lucky they are also the best athletes in the school.”

Both teams will play in the PIAA Class 2A playoffs, which begin June 3.

Redbank Valley will get Burgettstown, the third-place team out of District 7, to open up the state playoffs. Burgettstown beat OLSH, 8-2, on Tuesday afternoon in a consolation game.

Moniteau will take on either Serra Catholic or Seton LaSalle, also Monday. That WPIAL championship game will be played at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

For the Warriors, getting to the district championship game was something of an upset. The season has been an uneven one, but they got hot down the stretch, knocking off top-seed Karns City, 2-1, in the semifinals.

“We knew we could do it,” Cook said. “Everybody underestimated us this season. Nobody thought we should be here, but we knew we should be here. We knew coming into this season that we were going to be one of the top teams — and we are.”

Both team’s starters had quick outings.

Wallace went just two, giving up one run on four hits and striking out one. Huffman went four, giving up one run on three hits. He struck out three, but also walked four in his 71-pitch outing.

“(Huffman) had some hard-hit shots on him and in a single-elimination game, you can’t wait until it’s too late,” Hibell said. “We knew we had to go to somebody else. We also had Ty (Carrier) and Mason (Clouse) in the back pocket if we needed them.”

Redbank Valley didn’t.

Now the Bulldogs can celebrate yet another district crown — “The Year of the Dawgs” — before getting back to work for the state playoffs and a team in Burgettstown that has knocked them out of the PIAA postseason two years in a row.

“We have six days, so we’re definitely going to celebrate and enjoy ourselves and take a little time off,” Hibell said. “And then get back to work. We haven’t been able to get over that hump with Burgettstown. We have to find a way to do that so we can keep playing.”