Paul Dunbar's new-look baseball team has been like the weather this spring — sometimes good, sometimes bad, but expected to get much better by May.
Under first-year coach Larry Poynter, and with only one true veteran player in the lineup, the Bulldogs have been streaky this season.
After winning their first five games, they lost five in a row, and have since run off four consecutive victories, including a 15-4 pounding of Ballard on Saturday afternoon.
Dunbar, which is tied with Ballard at No. 18 in the state rankings, won impressively even without Brandon Eggenschwiler, its lone returning starter, who was at college orientation at Murray State.
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Poynter, who came to Dunbar from Bryan Station, said he's pleased with how the Bulldogs are coming along.
"There's a transition, learning a new style," he said. "But the kids are giving 110 percent effort every day, and as I keep telling them, if they keep putting in the work, good things are going to result from it."
One result was a strong showing against Ballard, which held early leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before the Bulldogs took control.
Ryan Houghton, a senior centerfielder who saw limited action last year, had two hits and four RBI.
"We're starting to swing the bats a lot better, our pitching's coming along, and we're not making as many errors," Houghton said. "We're getting better every day."
Alex Wade, a junior rightfielder, had two hits and two RBI. Spencer McGuire and Nick Landers had three runs apiece.
Dunbar got lots of help from Ballard's shaky pitching, which surrendered 11 walks and uncorked six wild pitches, three of which allowed runs to score.
Bulldogs senior right-hander Corey Craig, who had been sidelined by tendinitis and a strained rotator cuff, got his first start on Saturday, and got the win. He went four innings and gave up four runs, struck out four and walked one.
Craig wasn't surprised that Dunbar rallied to beat Ballard. "We've got a lot of fight," he said. "We're not going to hit a lot of home runs, but we're gonna play small ball and always be in the game."
Poynter was impressed by sophomore Graham Winchester's two shutout innings of relief. He also expects his pitching staff to get a lift when junior Chris Beymer and Tyler DeAgano are able to throw again soon after rehabbing from injuries.
But the Dunbar coach isn't rushing anything. Pairings for the 43rd District tournament will be determined by a blind draw, so Poynter said he is approaching the regular season as "36 games of practice to get ready for the (district).
"Right now we're trying to give our guys as much experience as we can so that hopefully in May we'll be a club that'll be tough to handle."
Paul Dunbar 15, Ballard 4
Ballard 112 000— 4 6 4
Paul Dunbar 024 063—15 9 1
Chris Jones, John Travisano (4), Patrick King (6) and John Fidanza; Corey Craig, Graham Winchester (5) and Michael Johnson. W—Craig. L—Jones. 2B—Brad Harp (PD), Alex Wade (PD), Ryan Heim (PD), Adam Gardenhire (B), Curtis McCombs (B).
Records—Ballard 7-9, Dunbar 9-5.