Cleveland’s Tyler Keenan broke into a big smile following the Rams’ 7-2 non-conference win over Clayton Wednesday at home, but he felt upbeat about more than his two-run home run.
“I don’t think anybody expected us to come out this strong,” said Keenan of Cleveland’s 3-0 start after a 12-11 record a year ago. “It’s a good feeling — a lot better than last year. Everybody is clicking this year. We didn’t have good chemistry last year.”
Keenan, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore shortstop batting third, stroked a two-run 360-foot home run to right-center field for a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Starting pitcher Ryan Flores scored earlier when he reached based on a throwing error and scored from second on another throwing error that allowed Landon Brown to reach first safely.
Keenan also knocked in Flores in the fifth inning with a single to finish the day 3 of 4 with three RBIs.
“I got a fastball up and thought I could pull it,” Keenan said of his first homer of the season. “I worked on my hitting all summer.”
Flores is one of the varsity additions from last year’s 19-1 junior varsity team to join Keenan’s big bat on the roster. The 5-8 left-hander pitched 5 1/3 innings to pick up the win and was 3 of 4 with three runs scored while batting leadoff. That’s a heavy load for a first-year varsity player, but he welcomes it.
“I think I do well under pressure,” said Flores, who is 2-0 after winning the opener. “I focus a little more and try my hardest. It gets me prepared.”
Cleveland’s fast start has come about despite only one practice on the field due to the winter storms.
“We didn’t get the timely hitting today that we had in the first two games, but I’m pleased with this team,” Cleveland coach Jamie Lee said. “We’ve got a good group of kids. I like working with them. We took some ground balls in the parking lot, but we were only on the field one day before the first game.”
Clayton, which also had only one practice on the field before winning its opener, dropped to 1-1.
Comets shortstop Cole Hinnant was 1 of 4 with an RBI and first baseman Brooks Verona was 2 of 4 with an RBI. Zach Greene was 2 of 2 with a run scored and Drew Boumenot scored after reaching base on an error.
Clayton played from behind all day after two first-inning errors led to a 3-0 deficit and five walks in the fourth contributed to a 6-0 hole.
“Early on we didn’t play defense,” Clayton coach Stacy Hauser said. “We also weren’t nearly as good at the plate as I expected. We took some ugly swing. But it was only our third day on the field and we’ll get better with repetition. There were some good things that happened.
“We drove the ball and turned two. We battled and competed.”