Notebook: Groveport Madison Cruisers baseball team sees breakthrough with first win

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Tyler McKee pitched a complete game and doubled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning in Groveport's 2-1 victory over Reynoldsburg on April 12 for the Cruisers' first victory.

Groveport Madison baseball coach Chris McKee felt his team approaching a breakthrough after a rough start to the season, but the Cruisers losing their first three games by a combined score of 35-5 – and then drawing closer to wins in their next two – told only part of the story.

“I’m not even sure what the scorebook tells us,” McKee said. “We see with our eyes what we need to see.”

The Cruisers got their coveted first victory April 12, edging visiting Reynoldsburg 2-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division opener for both teams, and did so in memorable fashion.

Tyler McKee doubled in the sixth inning to score Jamell Mitchell with the winning run and then finished a complete game on the mound by retiring the Raiders in order in the seventh.

Groveport, which was 1-7 overall and 1-1 in the league entering an April 16 game at Lancaster, was coming off close losses at Grove City (5-4 on April 8) and Hartley (13-10 on April 10).

Against Hartley, Aiden Barnhart hit a lead-off home run and Kyle Jennings added a three-run homer in the sixth inning to tie the game at 9.

“Going through those tough times kind of galvanized us as a team. We’d put together a good day of offense and then a good day of defense and then we’d pitch at a high level,” coach McKee said. “What we’ve had to do is try to find a formula. We used our (scrimmage) schedule and non-league schedule to do that. 

“We scheduled some pretty good teams. We wanted to measure ourselves against some teams that would hurt us if we couldn’t take care of the baseball. We got beat up a little bit and played well sometimes too.”

• Joey Helms’ 4-0 record on the mound helped pace the Canal Winchester baseball team to a 7-3 start, and his nine-strikeout, two-walk performance in the league opener April 14 powered them to a 7-2 win over Worthington Kilbourne.

Helms also had two hits and three RBI.

Canal Winchester – which got off to its best start since going 14-2 in 2017 – had a five-game winning streak snapped April 15 with a 6-5 loss at Kilbourne.

The Indians averaged 7.0 runs in their first nine games and had given up a total of 39, although 11 came in a three-run loss to St. Charles on April 7.

• The Groveport softball team started OCC-Buckeye play in a big way April 15, as junior pitcher Kendyll Cahill threw her first perfect game in a 10-0, five-inning shutout of visiting Reynoldsburg.

Cahill struck out 12 and hit a two-run home run as Groveport won its third consecutive game and was 6-7 overall before taking part in Lancaster’s annual Battle for the Cure on April 17.

The Cruisers had dropped seven of their first 10 games. Groveport defeated Hamilton Township 6-1 on April 13 behind four hits and three RBI from Kendyll Cahill, and Natalie England had three hits – including two doubles – the next day in a 9-4 win at Westland. Cahill struck out 14 and allowed two hits in six shutout innings.

• Despite dropping only its third game of the season April 14, a 14-6 setback to Westerville North in OCC-Capital play, the Canal Winchester softball team found itself thriving thanks to its offense.

Riley McNeely had three of the Indians’ seven home runs through 10 games with Samantha Peters hitting two and Dani Skinner and Delainey Six each with one.

McNeely’s home runs all came March 27 during a season-opening doubleheader against Avon Lake, but she also had two three-hit games over the next three weeks to help the team average 11.7 runs per game.

Peters and Samantha Zungri have split pitching duties for the Indians, who were 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the league before playing Delaware on April 19.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave