The Bishop England baseball team has a 24-3 record and a berth in the Class AA State Championship Series, which begins today when the Bishops travel to Mid-Carolina in the best-of-three series.
It's the scenario coach Mike Darnell didn't expect when tryouts were held back in January.
"I thought we were inexperienced as far as the position players go," said Darnell, who is seeking his third state championship as coach of the Bishops. "We didn't have a ton of guys who had a ton of experience. We even had two freshmen playing the middle positions in the infield."
Freshmen Alex Abrams and Corey Forester started the season at shortstop and second base, respectively. But Darnell moved Abrams to third, and put Anthony Rowland at short and Mark Kelly at second, while Forester moved to DH. The switch has given the Bishops a better defense, and more experience as they enter today's 7 p.m. game after winning 11 of their last 12 games.
While the Bishops didn't have a ton of experienced position players, they did have a pair of guns on the mound in John Cornely and Bobby Streisel.
Cornely, who will start tonight for the Bishops, carried the team early while Streisel made the transition from basketball. Cornely struggled late in the season, but was in top form in the Lower State Championship Series when he was credited with the win in a 7-2 decision over Loris.
Cornely is 7-2 with a 1.92 ERA, with 90 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.
Streisel will start Game 2, which is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Father Kelly Field on Daniel Island. Streisel is 10-0, with an 1.11 ERA. The third game, if needed, will be played at a neutral site Friday.
Darnell is confident Cornely and Streisel will be in top form, adding, "Having two guys of their quality at the (Class) AA level, is pretty strong," Darnell said. "They'll pretty much give you seven innings every time they're out there."
But good teams don't live by pitching alone. The Bishops are hitting .342 as a team and own a .477 slugging percentage.
Streisel is hitting .455 with a pair of homers and 22 RBIs, while Brison Celek hits for average (.402) and power (four homers). He leads the team with eight doubles and 39 RBIs. Cameron Allmendinger and Brantley Meier have been hitting near the .400 mark all year.
The Bishops will make the trip to Prosperity, which is almost a three-hour bus ride from Charleston.
"If you win the first road game, that's huge," Darnell said. "You have to go on the road for one of two, anyway. It's nice to be at home for that first game, but if you win that first one on the road, that gives you a huge advantage."