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CENTRALIA — Never in doubt.

As the Rainier Mountaineers slowly chipped away at Kalama’s onice sizable lead, those three words captured the Chinooks’ dugout.

Despite leading 11-2 at one point, Kalama had to hold off a late Rainier charge to win 14-8 and advance to the 2B baseball title game on Saturday.

Kalama plays either Brewster and Asotin at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“We were definitely gonna get all the outs, Jack Doerty said. “We’re playing good. We kept our heads up.”

Rainier was a solid challenge for a team that hasn’t lost since March.

The Mountaineers struck first, plating a pair of runs in the top of the initial frame, touching Chinooks starter Bradey Vance for a pair on a double to deep center by his counterpart Zach Lofgren, then a little infield single with two outs where Lofgren never slowed around third and scored.

Bradey Vance, though, retired the next seven batters he faced, settling down and allowing his offense to do its thing.

“That’s kind of his M.O.,” Kalama coach Brandon Walker said. “We have a joke of, ‘Go throw a couple innings in the bullpen before the game actually starts.’ We kind of expect that out of him. It’s not always pretty, doesn’t look the greatest, but he responds and gets better as the game progresses.”

Kalama came back for a run in the first, getting doubles from Tommy Brandenburg and Bradey Vance himself, them both going to roughly the same spot in left center.

Kalama pushed across five more in the second, sending 11 batters to the plate and getting consecutive doubles from Brennon Vance, Hayden Wilson and Bradey Vance, all of which scored at least one run.

But the inning got broken open by the freshman Doerty, who sliced a soft liner into left to plate two — Alex Dyer and Jackson Hull — to give Kalama a lead it never relented.

“I was proud of the way we responded in that second inning,” Walker said. “Really, it started with the bottom of our lineup, like it’s been the last few weeks. They’ve picked us up.”

Kalama kept adding — two in the third on a Wilson sac fly and a balk by Lofgren, and one more in the fifth on a single by Hull.

But Kalama ran itself out of a 12th run when the Chinooks got aggressive and sent Dyer around on the simple infield ground out. It wasn’t close at the plate and Rainier had some momentum to work with.

“Just a little over-aggressiveness on the basepaths,” Walker said.

Rainier benefited some three errors in the top of the fifth, cutting the 11-2 lead to 11-6, loading the bases with two outs with the tying run on deck.

The Mountaineers pulled within three in the sixth in a Rocky Cruse two-run, two-out single, but he was picked off of first after taking too big a turn.

Brennon Vance slammed the door in the seventh after Kalama added some insurance in the prior half, and Kalama lived to play another day.

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Sports Reporter

Rick is a 29-year veteran of The Daily News, and the lead Lower Columbia College athletics reporter. In addition, he tracks former area prep athletes and assists several other beats. He is a Mark Morris grad with a business management degree from LCC.

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