Squirrels heading to Babe Ruth World Series

Sunday, August 3, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com Oran graduate Steven Dooley has become one of the key pitchers for Charleston's Senior Babe Ruth team.

In just their fourth year of existence, the Charleston Fighting Squirrels have advanced to the Senior Babe Ruth World Series for the first time in the program history.

The Squirrels won the Midwest Plains Regional tournament, which they hosted last week at Hillhouse Park, and will begin play later this week in Newark, Ohio.

"It's just amazing," Charleston coach Michael Minner said. "It's just incredible for our community, and I just can't say enough about this group of guys. This has been the best summer of my life, and I owe it to these kids."

The kids predominantly are Charleston High School players, but the roster also includes Blake Gaddis of Notre Dame, Mark Freed of Scott County Central and recent addition Steven Dooley of Oran. All three recently completed their high school eligibility, with Gaddis and Dooley playing in the state final fours for their respective schools.

The Squirrels posted an 8-7 victory against Kansas on Tuesday to conclude the regional.

"It was one of those times when the atmosphere is just crazy, and I loved it," said Freed, the Squirrels' first baseman and a final four participant this winter with Scott County Central's basketball team. "It's a feeling that I've never experienced before. And I doubt any of the rest of the guys have felt it either. It was amazing."

Dooley started the championship game, working 5 2/3 innings and striking out nine batters.

"He didn't have his best stuff but he battled his tail off," said Minner, a Cape Girardeau native and Central graduate. "He did a great job out there all day. It was just awesome."

Dooley, who joined the Charleston team after his Oran squad was eliminated at the district level, allowed six runs — four earned — on 10 hits and two walks.

"It was very hot out there," Dooley said. "I just couldn't keep the ball down and my curveball wasn't working that well. I relied on my fastball to blow it past them. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't."

Dooley had impressed his new Charleston teammates in the state tournament championship game with a seven-inning two-hitter that included 16 strikeouts.

"He is automatic," shortstop Gaddis said of Dooley. "Balls aren't hit off of him hard. If there is a basehit, it's off the end of the bat with two strikes or a curveball that they just poke at. He's as good of a pitcher that I've seen in a while."

Minner echoed Gaddis' praise of Dooley, an all-state pitcher for Chaffee as a sophomore and Oran the last two years.

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

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

Dooley likes how the Squirrels are coming together with the World Series coming up.

"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."

Added Gaddis: "This is what we have played for all year. To accomplish a goal like that is pretty exciting. We're going to go up there and see what we can bring back and we know there's going to be a lot of tough competition, but we feel we can play with them."

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