Prep baseball: Dodrill returns, provides Red Dragons with big boost
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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PARKERSBURG COACH Alan Burns is looking for that right chemistry and quality innings to piece together a winning streak for his .500 team.
The Big Reds are 8-9 with only one two-game winning streak and actually have a higher team batting average (.329) than 12-5 St. Albans (.314).
"We've been too inconsistent," said Burns, whose first season as head coach was 1999, the senior year for current Cleveland Indians right fielder Nick Swisher. "We go to Riverside, we get 17 hits. Then, we play South, we get 18 hits on them and we turn around and get five or six hits."
Parkersburg averages only 2.6 errors per game - not an inordinate number of miscues for a high school baseball team.
However, they seem to come at the wrong time, Burns said.
"What's been killing us is the defense," he said. "Against Warren, we had nine errors. You can't win a ballgame like that. Then, you have one error the next game and you win.
"We have the tendency to take a mistake and compound it into two or three."
Parkersburg's offense is led by junior No. 3 batter Levi Casto with a .514, and junior No. 6 batter Logan Dudley (.422).
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SHORTHANDED Parkersburg Catholic, Parkersburg's Wood County neighbor, could be considered an overachiever considering the program has just 13 players and no junior varsity team.
The Crusaders (11-6) took Charleston Catholic to the wire - trailing by only two in the sixth inning before falling 10-5. Seventh-year Coach Tom Harvey's team opened the season on a nine-game winning streak, losing six of eight since.
Parkersburg Catholic is spearheaded by the duo of senior centerfielder Mitch Davis and junior shortstop Jake Ullman. Davis, the team's leadoff hitter and centerfielder, is batting .500 with two home runs, and 16 RBI, while Ullman leads the team in RBI with 24.
Davis also showed off his arm against Charleston Catholic, keeping an Irish runner from scoring from second base on a single to center field. His throw one-hopped to catcher Jake Boice to the right of home plate at the third-base line.
"We have a lot of respect for Mitch," said Catholic Coach Bill Mehle on his decision to not send the runner home. "Mitch is great. He covers a lot of ground out there."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.