They say every journey begins with a single step.
For the Keene Swamp Bats, the journey of the 2019 season started with a step back, following their sloppy 14-8 loss to the Upper Valley Nighthawks at home in Thursday’s season opener.
But they took their first step forward Friday, returning to Alumni Field before a crowd of 1,305 to claim their first win, a 7-5 victory over the Newport Gulls.
The bats of the Bats (1-1) took care of their job, scoring six runs in the first three innings on the back of three home runs — one by third baseman David Bedgood (2-for-3), and two by left fielder David Matthews (2-for-3, two runs scored, four RBI), who had just flown into Keene two hours earlier.
The big swings gave Keene an early 6-1 cushion, but the Gulls (0-2) started pecking away at that lead, scoring two in the fifth, one in the sixth and one in the eighth. Newport got runners to second and third with one out in the final inning, but Bats reliever Jonathan Edwards forced the next two batters to fly out, ending the game and picking up the save.
Center fielder Andrew MacNeil and second baseman Mitchell Golden each went 1-for-3 with a run scored for Keene, while right fielder Randy Bednar finished 0-for-3 with two runs.
David Johnson started on the hill for the Bats and pitched 4.1 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and one walk with four strikeouts to earn the win. Justin Willis — an all-star closer and second team All-NECBL selection last year — made his first appearance and went 3.2 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk while striking out five to set up Edwards.
Keene hosts the North Adams SteepleCats Saturday at 6:30 p.m. to close out its opening home stint, before going on the road for a rematch with Newport Monday at 6:35 p.m.