All injuries considered, it's been a successful second season of Ashley Ridge baseball.
The Ridge, which opened in time for the 2008-09 academic year, has a 15-7 record, including 5-2 in Region 6-AA heading into today's region finale against Bishop England. The Swamp Foxes close out the regular season against Hilton Head on Saturday and begin playoff action on Thursday.
The team was able to overcome the loss of two key players. Catcher Nick Bell missed three weeks with a knee injury and junior Alex Christmas, the team's leading hitter last year with a .478 batting average, went down April 2 when he suffered a broken jaw when he was hit by a pitch.
Throw in a demanding schedule and coach B.J. Bellush is able to smile when he talks about the present -- and future.
"Obviously, we had everyone coming back since we're a new school," Bellush said. "But this team has had a lot of adversity, and I like the way the team has responded to that challenge. We've got lot of young guys. It's not unusual to have seven or eight sophomores in the lineup. We have a lot of young guys so I preach mental toughness. To go 15-7 with all that has happened says something about this team's character."
The return of Christmas would be, well, an early Christmas present for the Swamp Foxes. He's scheduled to go to the doctor on Monday and could possibly get the green light.
"I know it's a long shot," Bellush said. "He's itching to play and he's one of our better players. He started as a ninth-grader at Fort Dorchester and led our team in hitting last year. He's going to have to wear a guard and get his timing back. But once he sees a couple of pitches, I think he will be OK."
One player who has remained healthy is pitcher Austin Livingston, who leads the team with a .375 batting average. He also pitches and leads the team with four victories. He's struck out 55 batters in 48 2/3 innings and has five complete games and a 1.93 ERA.
"He's one of the best kids we have," Bellush said. "He comes to the field ready to play every day. He's a workhorse on the mound and goes up against the other team's best pitcher. He lost a 1-0 decision to Bishop England and (pitcher) Jimmy Lindberg, and he lost a 7-6 decision to James Island when (Austin) Weekley pitched. He gave up only two earned runs in that game."
Sophomore center fielder Lorenzo Wright has a bright future. He has good speed and power and patrols a lot of ground in the outfield.
"Lorenzo is the best defensive outfielder I've coached in 13 years," said Bellush, a former Charleston Southern star who spent a decade as a Fort Dorchester assistant before taking the Ashley Ridge job. "He covers so much ground, has a good arm and great speed. He's a menace on the base paths."
The team's performance in the Hanahan Invitational Tournament could be a preview of the future. The Swamp Foxes went 2-1.
Wright went 4 for 4 at the plate with a double, an RBI and a stolen base in a win over Louisville Male.
Livingston pitched a one-hitter and struck out nine in a shutout over Berkeley.
Bell, back from the knee injury, homered in a loss to Belen Jesuit, and second baseman Zach Patterson was 3 for 4 at the plate. Patterson is second on the team with a .351 average.
Bryan Dye and Bill Seigler also have batting averages that hover around .350, while Patrick Mace and James Reeves give the Ridge depth on the mound.