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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Squirrels coming together as a team

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Charleston's Steven Dooley puts down a sacrifice bunt in the third inning Tuesday afternoon. Photo by David Jenkins
CHARLESTON -- There is only one thing hotter than the weather heading into the Senior Babe Ruth World Series, the Charleston Fighting Squirrels' team chemistry. One definition of chemistry can be described as any or all elements that make up something. The Squirrels definitely have all of the elements of a winning club -- pitching, defense and offensive production. All three were on display throughout the Midwest Plains Regional which featured the Charleston squad coming out on top over Kansas in an 8-7 shootout on Tuesday afternoon in the blistering sun.

"It was very hot out here today," said Squirrels catcher Zach Rowland who caught all seven innings in the 100-plus heat index weather. "I was just sweating back there -- it felt like something was roasting in the oven."

Despite the blazing heat, Rowland managed to do his job justly while catching Charleston's newest addition, Steven Dooley.

Dooley threw 5 2/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out nine. He was awarded the victory in the championship game.

"I didn't have my best stuff," said Dooley following the win. "I couldn't keep the ball down and my curve ball wasn't working real well. I was relying on my fastball to blow by them."

Dooley joined the Squirrels in the state tournament after his Oran squad was eliminated in the district round. He said that as soon as he joined the Charleston squad he felt right at home.

"The team chemistry is amazing heading into Ohio," he said. "It's just amazing how close we are. We feed off the local crowd and a lot of them came out here and supported us."

Head coach Michael Minner expected nothing less of his original roster to accept a new addition to the pitching staff.

"This has been one of those years where the group has grown together," Minner said. "They pull for each other."

"You saw it today, we've used everybody," he went on to say. "It's not like we've just run nine out there. We've got a lot of pitchers that don't play positions and they pitched all weekend and we've got guys that run. Everybody's accepted their role and we're about as close right now as you're going to get."

Dooley was added to the staff in the playoffs as an additional hurler for Minner to go to.

"He's a good kid and he comes from a good family," he said of his acquired ace. "He fits in well with these guys and he's one of those kids, he just loves to play baseball."

A big reason that Dooley was accepted immediately into the Squirrels' family was his heart and passion for the game.

"He (Dooley) wants the baseball whenever it's crunch time and those are the kind of kids that you want," said Minner. "A kid like that can pitch for me any day of the week."

Dooley even had the presence of mind in the fourth inning to throw inside on Wes Hefley as he attempted a squeeze bunt. The inside pitch forced a foul ball off the handle of Hefley's bat and the runner was forced to retreat back to third base.

"I was pretty much giggling on that," said Minner of Dooley's idea to throw inside. "That's what you teach. The guy left too early and it was one of those, 'Hey, bunt this buddy' situations."

As for the offensive production, Colin Gilooly was back in the lineup despite wearing a pair of eye glasses with one lens pulled out and one in, so that he could see at the plate. The removed lens gave way to a contact lens which made him feel more comfortable reading pitches.

"I've only been able to play in the last two games and I've felt pretty bad that I haven't been able to help," said Gilooly of his absence. "I still have one eye infected. I played with glasses on one eye and a contact in the other."

Gilooly was huge in the championship victory, belting a two-RBI triple in the top of the sixth inning. Gilooly eventually scored the game-winning run off of Blake Gaddis' sacrifice fly later in the sixth.

As for the team camaraderie, Gilooly also said that it is at an all-time high for the season.

"Our defense is pulling together and the pitching is good," he said. "Everybody is doing what they're supposed to, and that's what we have to do to win."

Other parts of the bigger picture for the Squirrels' victory were Tyler Whybark and Matt Medlock. Whybark came in and closed the door on the Kansas squad in the seventh inning and Medlock jump-started the offense, getting the first big hit of the contest for the host team.

"It was a great feeling to go one, two, three in the seventh inning," said Whybark of his relief appearance in the championship game. "I wasn't expecting to go in to pitch in the seventh, but I was excited and I just knew I had to do what I had to do. I went on nerves."

Medlock provided timely hits, but also saw a relief stint on the mound, ending the sixth inning with a ground ball with runners on second and third.

"The nerves got me when I came in to pitch with the bases loaded," said Medlock. "Whybark just came in and did his thing."

As for his big hit to get things going on the offensive front for Charleston, Medlock was high on his third inning double.

"It was big," he said. "We hadn't had anybody on base really, so, I came up and after last night's performance, which wasn't good, I had a job to do. I felt like it was my time."

Medlock and Whybark both said that right now is the time to head to the World Series as the team is 'all coming together' at the perfect moment.

Minner said that the main reason for the squad gelling at the right time, is the fan base in Charleston that has supported the Squirrels all season long.

"I'm so proud of the community and all of our kids," he said. "This is just incredible for our kids. It went so well, all of the umpires were great and so were all of the people that helped. I just couldn't be more proud."

He may have his chance to be more proud beginning August 8 as the Charleston Fighting Squirrels begin pool play in the World Series tournament in Newark, Ohio.