CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If St. Albans makes the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship tournament, it should certainly be battle-tested.
The Red Dragons (14-5) face a difficult stretch of games this week as they attempt to qualify for the four-team MSAC event that begins April 29.
The first five teams on SA's docket are all included in the Gazette's state rankings - today: at Hurricane (No. 1 in Class AAA); Tuesday: at Nitro (No. 9 in AAA); Wednesday: Logan (No. 8 in AAA); Thursday: at Parkersburg South (No. 6 in AAA); Friday: at Independence (No. 7 in AA). There's also a Saturday game at Greenbrier East.
"Our schedule next week is Murderer's Row,'' said St. Albans coach Rick Whitman. "If anybody plays a tougher schedule than we've got next week, I mean, I'd like to see it.''
The last time the MSAC standings were compiled, the Red Dragons were 4-2 in league games and rated third. They've since bumped their MSAC record to 7-3.
Only the top four teams in the conference by Saturday's cutoff date advance to the championship event, which will be hosted by the No. 1 team. Hurricane was No. 1 in the most recent set of MSAC standings.
Dots' dash of confidence
Poca had already beaten the state's No. 2 Class AA team - Bridgeport - earlier in the season, but make no mistake about Friday's 12-4 win against No. 1 Herbert Hoover.
It will give the Dots (13-6) a big boost of confidence.
Hoover (17-1), the Cardinal Conference leader, blanked Poca 10-0 earlier in the season, one of 11 mercy-rule victories for the Huskies this season. But the biggest thing Dots coach Gene Estel noticed was that his team played seven strong innings.
"We were up 6-0 on Winfield the other day,'' Estel said, "and sort of kicked it into cruise control and they came back and beat us 9-8. I told them they've got to keep the intensity up for seven innings. The next game, they did for about five innings against South Charleston.
"[Friday] they did play with that same intensity all the way through. That's good because were in a stretch right now where we play 12 games in 14 days - our only days off are Sunday. We're in a tough stretch and a lot of them are conference games, so we've got to come out with that same intensity. We tell them to get the 'W' and then look for the next one.''
Sophomore Noah Frampton, who pitched all seven innings against the Huskies, feels like Friday's win could keep paying off down the road.
"Beating the No. 1 team in the state,'' Frampton said, "just gives us confidence to know we can beat anybody any given day. I just thank the Lord for the abilities He's blessed us with.''
Irish hit speed bump
Things were sailing along smoothly for Charleston Catholic at the beginning of the season. The Irish vaulted to a 6-1 record and took over the top spot in the Class A ratings.
However, the last couple weeks have brought a slump of sorts.
Catholic dropped three of four games during its Myrtle Beach trip, has lost half of its last 12 games, and carries a three-game losing streak into this week.