Prep softball: St. Albans' Garber named Coach of the Year
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Entering the 2013 season the softball team at St. Albans High School was as much of an unknown quantity as it had been in a decade.
There was the reliable battery of pitcher Ali Haynes and catcher Mariah Caudill back in the fold, sure. There was also junior Madi Marshall, who made a move from third base to shortstop to replace 2012 All-State pick Rachel Hickman, who had moved on to Randolph (Va.) College.
Little else was truly known. Given the way the Red Dragons closed the previous season - with Haynes battling an arm injury and the team's offense anemic before and through a Class AAA Region 4 semifinal loss to Parkersburg South - there were serious questions about the program's ability to remain near the top of the Region 4 heap.
The emergence in 2012 of a young and immensely talented team at Hurricane and the steady production of new players at Cabell Midland and Lincoln County played no small role in these doubts.
Nevertheless, with new starters at seven positions and a pair of freshmen in key positions, there were the Red Dragons, with 28 wins in their hip pocket and playing for a spot in the Class AAA State Tournament last Friday before bowing to Hurricane 2-0.
"If you told me when this season started that we'd be two innings away from the State Tournament coming out of Region 4, I'd be happy with that," St. Albans Coach Greg Garber said. "I'm extremely proud of the kids. The girls have worked so hard this year."
Garber, who surpassed the 500-win total for his career midway through the season, has been chosen by the Charleston Daily Mail as the Kanawha Valley Coach of the Year. The Red Dragons finished 28-5.
"We only lost five games this year. Three to them," Garber said in reference to Hurricane following the regional title game.
"You saw the first two games. A lot of people thought they were going to put it on us again tonight. I think we gave them everything they could handle."
Hurricane had beaten St. Albans by scores of 9-0 and 13-0 prior to the Region 4 championship game in Hurricane.
"I'll shoot it straight: we came into tonight since 2000 at 285-50. We don't ever expect to lose, (but) before the season started we had two seniors and so many different position players. We didn't expect to be 28-5 and two innings to go in the game with no score.
"This team came together, has held together and made the plays. I'm really proud of my kids."
Marshall, Caudill and Haynes each ended their seasons ranked among the top 15 hitters in the Kanawha Valley, but that was somewhat expected. St. Albans had no other hitter among area leaders.
Freshman center fielder Katie Holstein finished the year batting .367. Though she did not have enough at-bats to qualify for the leaders, but she played error-free defense. She and freshman second baseman Maddie Chandler were named to the Daily Mail Kanawha Valley All-Rookie team Monday largely on the strength of their play in the field.
Garber's career wins total stands at 522. After a season in which the Red Dragons also received important contributions from underclassmen such as third baseman Alyssa Bonham, first baseman Haili McCown and outfielders Whitney Jones and Amber Kemplin, he stands to pad that total significantly in 2014.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.