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Prep baseball: Harless pitches St. Albans to win over Capital

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- St. Albans starting pitcher Austin Harless tossed five no-hit innings before surrendering his first hit Wednesday, eventually combining with teammate Joey Dodrill in an 8-0 win against Capital.

Harless moved with ease through the Capital lineup until he allowed back-to-back runners to reach to lead off the sixth inning. The blemish proved to be a blip on Harless' performance, though, as Dodrill entered to strand the runners and later cemented the win against visiting Capital at Loftis Field.

"I was throwing my pitches for strikes and my defense was behind me backing me up," Harless said of his game.

Harless entered the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead in hand and had not yet allowed a hit, unbeknownst to him.

"I had no clue," Harless said. "I don't try and think about that kind of stuff."

Capital's No. 8 hitter Brandon Thomas ended the no-hit bit, though, leading off the sixth inning with an infield hit that fell flat behind the second base bag. Red Dragons shortstop Clark Bryant fielded the ball cleanly and threw to first, but Thomas beat the ball to the bag. The single proved to be the Cougars' lone hit of the game.

Harless walked the next batter in the sixth before Dodrill entered in relief, retiring three in a row to end the threat.

Capital Coach Robert Massey said while the Cougars (5-8)  hitters made contact, the St. Albans defense thwarted any opportunities.

"We had a decent approach at the plate," Massey said. "We put the ball in play. We didn't strike out very many times as a team. We put the ball in play and St. Albans made the plays. They made more routine plays than we did and they got to 21 outs faster."

Harless finished with just two strikeouts, but more importantly, St. Albans Coach Rick Whitman said he pitched to contact and let the Red Dragons (9-3) defense work behind him.

That's a philosophy Whitman said his coaching staff preaches to each of the team's pitchers.

"Their job isn't to strike guys out, it's to get guys out," Whitman said, "and the less pitches you can do it, the better off you're going to be in the long run. (Harless) tries to get ahead of hitters, and when he's really tuned in, he's got three pitches. In high school, if you've got three pitches, you're pretty good.

"He's got his fastball, breaking ball and change-up. He wasn't as quite sharp tonight as he was last time out, but he was still pretty good."

Harless (3-1) said he agreed the key, for him, is location, not overpowering hitters.

"I just rely on throwing strikes and hitting my spots," he said, "just throwing all my pitches for strikes and working at it."

Dodrill earned the save as he entered the game while St. Albans held just a three-run lead. The Red Dragons scored five times in the bottom of the sixth inning to create a bit more comfort before Dodrill retired the Cougars in the seventh.

Dodrill entered the season as the team's No. 1 pitcher, though a strained shoulder injury prevented him from playing in the team's first four games of the season, Whitman said.

While Dodrill has slowly worked into the rotation, St. Albans has won eight games in a row since his return to the lineup.

Whitman said he was pleased with the performances of Dodrill and Harless, as he has been impressed with them all season, along with fellow pitchers Bryant and Dustin Turley.

"We've got four guys that we're pretty comfortable with," Whitman said. "They've done a pretty good job. It's not really a No. 1, it's just a bunch of guys that do their job and keep us in the game."

So far, that rotation has done more than keep the Red Dragons in games, it has led St. Albans to victory. On Wednesday, it was merely Harless' turn to carry the banner.


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