CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Few observers could have predicted what the St. Albans baseball team has accomplished at the midway point of the season.
After opening the season with losses to defending Class AAA champion Princeton and 2012 Class AAA Region 4 finalist Winfield, St. Albans (14-5) hasn't lost back-to-back games and put together a four-game winning streak.
"Early on we went 1-3 when we didn't have (Joey) Dodrill," said St. Albans Coach Rick Whitman, whose team was 4-0 at the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach. "Since he returned, he helped our lineup a lot. Not pitching because we were bringing him along slowly."
Dodrill's gradual recovery from a strained shoulder included three appearances with two innings apiece until last Thursday's five-inning gem against George Washington.
He went five innings in his first start of the season, giving up only a single to Tanner Sorrells. He struck out six batters and faced just 17 batters.
"Getting him back was the big key and the guys buying in," Whitman said. "That was the biggest thing. They started buying in to the way we wanted them to play and once they started doing that, we started winning."
Offensively, the Red Dragons are averaging 6.6 runs and have a .314 team batting average.
However, their team earned run average is 2.32, the pitchers average 7.3 strikeouts and just 2.8 walks per game.
St. Albans' one-two punch of Clark Bryant (3-1, 2.86 ERA) and a healthy Dodrill (2-0, 0.00) will make the Red Dragons a tough out at sectional time.
Interestingly, only two St. Albans seniors have played significantly before this season - Dodrill and Dustin Turley.
"The rest of them have never played," Whitman said. "They've been in the program. That's a big credit to them that they kept working until they got their opportunity. It's not that they're not good players, it's just that they had really good players ahead of them."
Among them are leadoff hitter Phoenix Shrewsbury. The third baseman had three plate appearances last season, but is batting .352.
The bottom line, Whitman said, is that chemistry has keyed his team's success.
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "Myrtle Beach really helped us. We went down there 3-3 and we won a close game with Waccamaw (5-2), then we won an extra-inning game against (Watertown, N.Y.), then we beat (Saranac, N.Y.) 7-0 and then we came back down 6-0 in the bottom of the seventh (to beat Canfield, Ohio 7-6), so they just kind of kept buying in and kept believing.
"Once you have buy in and have success, you say, 'Hey, this works.' "
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