by Aaron Garcia
In just a little more than four seasons, Ardrey Kell baseball has gone from a brand-new program to one of the premiere teams in the state. On March 16, the Knights put a number on their precocious success when they notched the 100th win in the program’s history.
“We’ve had talent,” Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell said, “and, all in all, we’ve coached them hard, they’ve played hard and we’ve had success. It takes good players, obviously.
“From Day 1, our kids have bought into everything we’ve done.”
The Knights started strong in 2007 by recording 19 wins as a first-year school. The following season, they advanced all the way to the Class 4A state finals before winning the title in 2009.
The team’s 100th win came perhaps a little earlier than expected, as the Knights had rushed out to a 9-0 record entering their March 22 game against the Southwestern 4A conference’s second-place team, Butler. So far this year, the Knights have recorded four shutouts and held seven of their opponents to two runs or less. As a result, the Knights cracked Baseball America’s Top 25 high school rankings at No. 18 this week.
“(The hot start) obviously gives us confidence,” said Bagwell. “Not that we weren’t confident coming in, but we’ve beaten some good teams and we’ve played well doing it. Our pitching has been dominant for us. With that, our defense has had less chances, so it’s all worked together.”
Bagwell commended Collin Keefer, Trent Thornton and Logan Ratledge for their production on offense and said the Knights have benefited from making opposing pitchers work deeper into each at-bat.
The Knights face East Mecklenburg on Friday, March 25, and Rocky River on Tuesday, March 29, before taking on rival Providence on Thursday, March 31. Bagwell insisted that even with all the success, the Knights aren’t standing pat.
“All in all, I’m pleased with where we’re at,” he said. “We can always get better, which we’re trying to do.”