From 0-8 to sectional quarterfinals for Kingsway
The season opened with a 16-0 loss, and somehow things got worse for Kingsway's baseball team. The Dragons experienced the most disastrous of starts, and the players were asking themselves one simple question: "When are we going to win a game?"
The season opened with a 16-0 loss, and somehow things got worse for Kingsway's baseball team.
The Dragons experienced the most disastrous of starts, and the players were asking themselves one simple question: "When are we going to win a game?"
Finally, after opening the season with eight straight losses, the Dragons won one, and then a few more. They gained some confidence and, somehow, into the fourth week of May, Kingsway is still playing meaningful games.
This team stuck together when the frustration of losing could easily have pulled it apart.
And that brings us to the current situation: Kingsway, despite its 13-15 record, is an awfully dangerous team in a Group 3 tournament in which the lower seeds won four of the first eight games.
Ninth-seeded Kingsway not only qualified for the South Jersey Group 3 tournament, but also beat No. 8 Highland, 11-0, in the first round. Now the Dragons will visit top-seeded Delsea in Friday's quarterfinals.
The Dragons will be the underdog, but they split their two games with Delsea, winning the most recent outing, 1-0.
While the pitching, the offense, and the defense have improved since that terrible start, the players' ability to fight through frustration made this a meaningful season. They believed they were a good team at 0-8, and they do now, although it's a little easier to have faith at this juncture.
"You have a bunch of 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds who found a way to believe in each other," Kingsway coach Ian Enders said. "They found a way to work through their struggles and found a way to recover what was on its way to being a disappointing season to one that has a lot of promise."
The team is led by senior John Paul Beshada, who this season earned his 100th career hit and is 5-3 with a 1.80 ERA.
"I knew we could pull it together if we kept working, stay after practice, take extra swings," Beshada said.
It also helps that the pitching has kept Kingsway in many games.
Beshada won Monday's opening-round game against Highland. If he doesn't pitch against Kingsway, it's likely to be Nick Listro, who is 3-3 with a 2.49 ERA.
In addition, Luke Falkenberg is 2-4 with a 2.31 ERA and Matt Helmandollar is 2-1 with a save and a 3.09 ERA.
Beshada (.355) and third baseman Ronnie Ippolite (.363, 26 RBIs) are the offensive leaders.
It would be nice to suggest that nobody became frustrated by the early losing, but the players wouldn't be human if that were the case.
"There definitely were moments of some negativity, but we stuck together, worked out our differences, and we really pulled together as a team and made it work," Ippolite said.
This season has been a good test of character, although Enders probably wishes that test could have included fewer early-season losses.
In the spring, there are more distractions, and Kingsway wouldn't have been the first team to lose focus for a season, counting the days when it could begin summer activities.
Instead, the Dragons dug deep and found a winning solution.
So this isn't a Kingsway team that believes it is playing with house money. It truly believes it belongs in the tournament and can do some damage.