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Spring back: Columbia River gets to top of baseball mountain in 1984

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While Washougal won three state titles in the 1970s, in 1984 Columbia River claimed Clark County’s first state baseball title in the big-school division.

The Chieftains, under the guidance of coach Curt Daniels, lost in the semifinals in 1982 to eventual state champion Newport and in the quarterfinals in 1983 to eventual champion South Kitsap.

But in 1984 at the Kingdome, the Chieftains and Daniels claimed their first championship. River would win another state title in 1989.

This is the Chieftains’ story from 1984.

SEATTLE — Columbia River’s Chieftains captured the Washington Class AAA baseball crown Saturday afternoon as they overpowered the Kamiakin Braves 9-7 in the Kingdome.

“We’ve been beaten by the champs the last two years. Now it’s our turn,” River coach Curt Daniels said in celebration. “It’s the first state title in 20 years of our league.”

It didn’t come easily.

The contenders from Kennewick jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Chieftain hurler Jeff Moe lost the opening rounds in a battle with his nerves, surrendering the runs on three walks, a hit batter and a passed ball.

“Jeff was one hitter away from being pulled from the game,” Daniels said, but Moe came back from a 3-0 count to strike out the next Braves batter, to end the inning and the Chieftains were on their way.

A six-run explosion in the second inning put the Chieftains in front to stay, and the power came from the bottom of the order — Greg Gecho — who delivered two triples and drove in four runs to lead the River attack.

Stu Bussey got things rolling when the Kamiakin center fielder dropped a long fly ball. Mark Gould drove him home with a double, Ray Gonzalez walked and Roger Smith loaded the bases with a bunt single.

That brought Gecho to the plate and he ripped a 3-2 count fastball so far into center field that it hit the 410-foot mark on the fence on two bounces. Gecho wound up on third after pushing three runners home, then scored himself on a passed ball. A walk to Moe and Steve Michael’s double made it 6-2 for the Chiefs before the rally ended.

“For a .205 hitter, Greg’s a heck of a competitor,” Daniels said. “I usually use a designated hitter for him or Jackie Cooper. But yesterday he was swinging the bat well, so I knew he’d be ready.”

For Gecho, this final game of his high school career was a dream come true.

“All year I’ve been hitting low in the lineup — seventh, eighth or ninth — and I’ve been too worried about trying to move up, my concentration has been poor,” Gecho said. “Tonight I didn’t have to worry because I knew it wouldn’t make any difference how I hit, it wouldn’t affect my future playing.”

He kept his concentration with his second triple of the game in the third inning, driving home Smith, who was on bases with an error, to make the Chieftain lead 7-2.

The Chiefs added two more in the sixth on Smith’s single, an error, Bob Santella’s sacrifice fly and Moe’s single.

Moe, after being nicked for three singles and two runs in the second inning, settled down and pitched hitless ball until the seventh inning when he began to tire.

“I think the adrenalin was flowing too much and too early at the start,” the pitcher said. “In the last inning, I was a little tired and was burning up. I was so shot. I’m not used to this kind of weather. I just got a fastball up and hung a curve, but I was really pitching all right.”

The Braves turned his two “mistakes” into a pair of doubles for a three-run rally in the final inning. But it wasn’t enough to catch the champions, who finished the game without a single error.

“I wasn’t worried with Jeff on the mound” in the later inning, Daniels said. “He’s had a great three years for us, and he’s a great competitor.”

James Vallance collected three hits and drove in three as Brewster defeated North Beach 14-3 for the Class B title. Cris Morris (9-0) struck out 10.

Greg Koelzer’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly snapped a 2-2 tie as Connell beat Meridian 3-2 for the Class A title.

Butch Englebright’s bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the seventh gave Olympic a 6-5 win over Eastmont and the Class AA title. Olympic was trailing 5-4 going into the seventh when Joel Goodnight tripled. John Guerrero drew a two-out walk, then Goodnight scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. Two more walks loaded the bases, and Englebright walked on four straight pitches.

Written by Chris Goin, The Columbian, May 27, 1984

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