HOME RUNS HELP BLUE DEVILS SWEEP DOUBLEHEADER AT JCCC
It was a day that went down in the annals of Kansas City Kansas Community College sports history Thursday. Not only did both KCKCC basketball teams earn national tournament berths, the Blue Devil baseball team swept a doubleheader at Johnson County, one of the Jayhawk Conference's preseason favorites.
The Blue Devils combined stingy pitching and timely hitting for 7-3 and 4-3 wins in the opening games of the 2016 Jayhawk season. The two teams will be right back at it Saturday as KCKCC hosts the Cavaliers in a twin bill starting at 1 p.m.
Backed by a pair of home runs by Eli Lovell, sophomore righthander Dustin Eby went the distance for the win in the 7-3 7-inning opener. Eby had a no-hitter for five innings and finished with a four-hitter, striking out five and walking two. Travis Stroup added two doubles and Albert Woodard and Easton Fortuna two singles each in the Blue Devils' 10-hit attack.
The Blue Devils built up a 4-0 lead before JCCC finally scored a run in the bottom of the sixth. KCKCC took a 1-0 lead in the first on a Stroup double and an error, got a solo home run from Lovell in the third and added two more runs in the fifth on singles by Fortuna and Woodard, Stroup's run-scoring ground ball and an RBI single by Lovell. Lovell's second home run, a 2-run shot following a single by Woodard and RBI double by Stroup, closed out the scoring in the seventh.
Sophomore catcher Malone Smith provided all the runs in the 4-3 9-inning nightcap win with a 3-run home run and a run-scoring single. Smith put the Blue Devils in front in the second with his 2-out, 3-run homer following singles by Ryan Fisher and Zach Mahoney. Then in the sixth after JCCC had pulled even, Smith drove in the game-winning run with a single following a walk and passed ball. Fortuna and Woodard also had two singles in a 9-hit attack.
Avery Fliger got the win with 3.1 innings of scoreless relief. He allowed four hits and walked one. Tanner Vestal got the save with the help of the Blue Devil defense that cut down the tying run at the plate with one out in the ninth. "Daulton Smith did a great job of getting to a ball in the gap and Easton Fortuna made a good relay to the plate to cut down the tying run," said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck. "It was one of two outstanding defensive plays. Travis Stroup also saved a run with a diving stop at third base."
In addition to a 2-0 conference start, the win stretched the Blue Devils' winning streak to nine and improved their overall record to 12-2. "Any wins in our conference are good but to start the season against a very good Johnson County team is a great start," said Goldbeck. "Dustin Eby set the tone early and Eli Lovell and Malone Smith provided the big hits."