CALDWELL - In early April, the Caldwell High baseball team was struggling.
After committing eight errors in a 12-3 setback to visiting Fort Frye, the Redskins suffered a Saturday doubleheader sweep to host Toronto, dropping 11-0 and 9-2 decisions.
In the shutout defeat, CHS was no-hit in five innings by Red Knights hurler Hank Clegg. And, during the twinbill, the Skins also had a combined seven miscues.
Needless to say, Caldwell head coach Brian Wheeldin, who guided the ballclub to a relatively competitive 9-12 overall record the year before, was not very happy.
"We started out the season 1-3," said the sixth-year Redskins baseball skipper, "and I just wasn't very pleased with our effort."
Something needed to be done to shake things up, and it was, with a little help from Mother Nature, the following Monday after the two losses to Toronto.
"It was raining that day," Wheeldin said, "and I think the kids were expecting we were going to practice in the gym. But I told them to meet me at the field."
"When we got to the field, it was still coming down," the Caldwell coach continued, "and the kids probably still thought that we weren't going to practice - but we did.
"It was a muddy mess, but we worked on hustling and the little things - and fundamentals. We got the kids talking to each other, and picking each other up, if a mistake was made. We even had a simulated game."
All in the rain.
At the conclusion, there was of course a lot of laundry to be taking care of, but....
"I think the practice was well worth it, and it might have been a turning point in our season," Wheeldin said.
Caldwell won five straight after that Monday workout. That modest winning streak was halted in a 3-1 loss to PVC frontrunning Fort Frye in Beverly, but the Skins got back on track with a victory against Monroe Central.
"Even though Fort Frye beat us, we played them a lot better than we did the first time around," Wheeldin said. "And, then beating Monroe Central...well, they'd beaten Fort Frye."
Caldwell captured 12 of its next 16 games, since beginning the spring with a 1-3 mark. One of those was a payback triumph over Toronto in an OVAC semifinal in Noble County. In that contest, the Redskins knocked Clegg out of the box early, and then had to rally to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the extra session to win 7-6.
"That was a big confidence boost," Wheeldin said.
The following Saturday, Caldwell made school history when it defeated Shadyside, 9-1, to claim its first OVAC baseball championship.
"Our pitching has been outstanding, and we've hit the ball," Wheeldin said. "We've had a couple of stretches where we've had trouble fielding the ball. But we're working on that.
"We're fairly young, but this is an outstanding group of kids."
Kids, who turned their season around by practicing in the rain.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at email@example.com