Every team’s goal, every season, is - or should be - a State Championship and Coach Michael Long’s 2012 George Kell Motors squad is no exception.
They began that trek Friday afternoon as the kicked off the season with an impressive doubleheader sweep of Zone 2 rival Harrison.
“That was as good a start to the season as I could have hoped for,” Long said following the game.
“Our pitching was outstanding in both games, we didn’t commit an error on defense and our offense came up with hits when we needed them.”
Grant Black picked up the victory in the opening game 4-1 victory as he tossed a complete game two-hitter, striking out nine and walking three.
In the nightcap, Michael Reynolds allowed only a leadoff bloop single just out of reach of a diving Kell defender as he shut down Harrison 7-0.
In tossing the one-hitter, Reynolds struck out five and walked only two - back-to-back batters in the sixth - before retiring the final four batters to secure the win.
In the opener, Devante Neal got the scoring started by beating out a bunt basehit. After stealing second and third bases, Neal scored on an RBI groundout by Black for a 1-0 lead.
Kell Motors scored three times in the bottom of the second as Gunnar Bullard reached on a one-out Harrison error and Cade Niswonger followed with a walk. After a fly ball for out number two, Neal tripled into the left-centerfield alley to plate two. Spencer Shannon followed with an infield hit and a 4-0 lead after two.
Harrison picked up their lone tally in the top of the third inning on a walk, a wild pitch and a two-out basehit before Black got out of the inning.
He allowed only three more baserunners the rest of the way in earning the win.
Neal led Kell Motors at the plate with two hits as he drove in two and scored twice.
Shannon and Black had a hit and an RBI each while Matthew Duvall and Colton Willis also had basehits.
In game two, Reynolds gave up the leadoff single and Harrison sacrificed him to second base with one out, however, following a strikeout, the Kell Motors defense set the tone as first baseman Black dove for a ball in the hole and had the ball careen off his glove. With Reynolds racing to the bag to cover, second baseman Duvall alertly scrambled over scooping the ball up bare-handed and threw off-balance to get the runner and get out of the inning.
Kell Motors never looked back as they scored a run each in the second and third innings, two in the fourth and three more in the sixth inning for a 7-0 win.
Page 2 of 2 - In the second inning, Willis reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second base on a Harrison error with two outs. Wil Hubbard plated Willis with an RBI single and a 1-0 lead.
Neal got things started for Newport in the home half of the third inning as he walked, stole second, moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single by Black.
Hubbard got things going in the fourth inning as he and Niswonger led off the frame with back-to-back singles. With one-out, Neal’s single and Harrison error allowed both runners to score and give Kell Motors a 4-0 lead.
After Reynolds walked two in the top of the sixth before escaping, Kell Motors gave the southpaw some breathing room in the final inning as they scored three times in home half of the sixth.
Hubbard was hit-by-a-pitch to start the inning, following back-to-back outs, the inning seemed innocent enough until Neal and Shannon followed with basehits. Neal’s scored Hubbard to stretch the lead to 5-0. Following a walk to Black to load the bases, Harrison committed another throwing error to allow Neal and Shannon to bring home the final runs of the night.
Neal and Hubbard led Newport with two hits each and an RBI. Black had a hit and an RBI while Shannon, Duvall and Niswonger also had basehits.
“We had a couple of baserunning mistakes but for the first game, I thought we looked pretty good,” Long said following the sweep.
“I want to thank all the fans who showed up for the game and battled the heat, it made a big difference for our guys to be able to look up there and see a good crowd.”
He continued, “We have kind of been pointing to this team as our chance to have a special year. We have a lot of experience, some youth, a lot of quality depth, speed, some power and most importantly - we’ve got some really good baseball players.”
“Guys that have played a lot of baseball and a lot of baseball together. I just want to encourage everyone to keep coming out and supporting this team.”
After a Wednesday night non-zone doubleheader with Stuttgart, Kell Motors will return to action Monday, June 4 as they host Wynne in a Zone 2 doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m.