For most of the month of March nothing seemed to go right for the Jay M. Robinson softball team.
Starting the year 4-6, their struggles were surprising because a solid core of the team returned after going 24-4 on their way to reaching the 3A state quarterfinals last year.
But as the calendar moved to April, success came with it. The Bulldogs have won seven straight games, all in South Piedmont Conference play, vaulting themselves from sixth-place in the league to a tie for first in the SPC (with Central and Northwest Cabarrus) with one week to go in the regular season.
"We had a tough start and I think a lot of the girls lost confidence in themselves," said Jay M. Robinson softball coach Jim Allen, whose team won the SPC regular season and tournament titles last year. "But we changed our philosophy. We stopped looking at statistics and mistakes and started to only focus on the positives. I think that was a big reason we were able to turn this thing around."
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Another big reason for the Bulldogs' success is the return of all-state pitcher Dallas King. King, who missed the first three weeks of the season because of a lower back injury. The junior has returned to form, going 10-3 on the mound with a 1.51 ERA.
King, who is also hitting .360, started April off with a bang, pitching a perfect game in a 15-0 rout of A.L. Brown.
"It's no coincidence that things have been better since Dallas got healthy," said Allen. "If she can go seven strong innings, we feel like we are going to have a great shot. She gives us a chance to beat anybody on any night."
King has had a lot of help from her teammates. The senior trio of Megan Crowe, Alex Church and Hayley Lewis are all batting .350 or better.
With the group heading to play college ball next fall - Crowe and Lewis heading to Western Carolina and Lewis going to UNC Charlotte - they are focused on doing what they can to finish their Robinson career on the right note.
That's evidenced by Lewis moving from catcher to left field and Church going from first to third base. Only two of the eight field players, including Crowe at shortstop, are playing in the same place they did last year.
"A lot of us had to go out of our comfort zone and play different positions," said Crowe, a Bulldog co-captain. "But we all came together because we want to win, that is our common goal."
Robinson has also gotten big contributions from senior Paige Calloway and sophomores Rachelle Toppings and Kayla England.
The results have included wins against Central Cabarrus, Cox Mill, Hickory Ridge Mount Pleasant and Northwest Cabarrus, who were all ahead of the Bulldogs in the SPC standings when they played.
Robinson looks to finish the season where they thought they would be all along: in first place.
Robinson controls its own destiny.
The Bulldogs were schedules to host A.L. Brown Tuesday before traveling to Concord, who are both in the bottom of the SPC standings.
"It's important that we keep our momentum going the next week going into the (SPC) tournament," said Crowe. "To do that, we have to bring our 'A' game every night."
As Robinson turns the page to May, they can only hope that it will be as good as the last month with the Bulldogs moving onto postseason play.
"We've won a lot of close games lately and we think that has prepared us for the games we've have ahead of us," said Allen. "Obviously, you hope to play your best softball at this time of the year."