Since taking over the Marvin Ridge program in 2014, Jeff Stovall has averaged 18 wins per season and last year won a school record 22 times.
In the playoffs, the Mavs upset No. 1-seed Parkwood after the Rebels had beat Marvin three times during the regular season and advanced to the fourth round of the NCHSAA tournament.
They eventually lost to Jesse Carson in the round of eight, but that win over Parkwood was a big one.
After a shaky 2-2 start to this year, the red-hot Mavs have reeled off 13 wins in 14 games and enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the state.
The Mavs success has to start with senior pitcher Gabby Baylog who is having one of the all-time great seasons in county history.
Baylog has 16 starts and has thrown a complete game in all of them with seven shutouts and three no-hitters.
During one particularly dominant stretch in late March and early May, Baylog threw five consecutive shutouts and allowed a total of two runs, just one of which were earned.
“That was good,” said Baylog, a Coastal Carolina commit. “It helped me a lot with my confidence. Everything was working well. There wasn’t a pitch that wasn’t working. My changeup was good, my riseball was working. Taylor (Walker) calls all of my pitches and our defense plays really well behind me so that makes it easier on me, too. Everyone has played great behind me.”
Baylog has been great all year. In 103 innings of work, she’s posted a 0.61 ERA with 168 strikeouts opposed to just 18 walks. Of the 22 runs that have scored over 16 starts, just nine of them have been earned.
“It makes us feel confident every game knowing that she’s going out there.” Walker said. “I trust Gabby’s pitching for sure and I know she’ll put it where she needs to give us the best chance to win.”
Baylog isn’t just a pitcher, either, and has been a big part of an offense that is averaging more than 7.3 runs per game. This year she’s hitting .333 with six extra-base hits and nine RBIs, and has 115 hits including 34 extra-base hits in her career.
Walker has stepped up, too. After hitting three homers as a freshman, Walker joked that she already peaked at the plate, but this year she’s come to life.
“I think the difference for me is just getting comfortable and seeing different types of pitches,” she said. “I’m just swinging the bat and having fun.”
And hitting lots of home runs.
Walker is batting .453 with eight doubles, eight home runs and a team-high 24 RBIs, and has set new career highs in average, homers and runs driven in.
Senior first baseman Jessica Davis has been a model of consistency. Last year she cracked eight home runs and with three more this season has 16 on her career.
She is over 100 hits and closing in on a .400 career batting average. This year she’s batting .420 – her third consecutive season over .400 – and has 14 RBIs after driving in 60 over the previous two seasons.
Senior Kelly Dobos is a three-year starter at second base and this year is hitting .268 with nine RBIs.
Together they have the Mavs winning their first conference title in six years with their sites fixed on a long playoff run after getting a taste of it last year.
“I think this year has been so fun because it’s our last go with each other so we have to make the most of it,” Walker said. “Everyone has said coming it to this year that it was going to be our year and it’s helped us because it’s like, ‘Yep, it sure is.’ And it has been.”
It’s also been rewarding. The Mavs have been forced to go with a three-man freshmen outfield for most of the season, but Mauri Murray (.294, two home runs and 11 RBIs) and Katriel Williams (.289, two home runs and eight RBIs) have started every game and filled in well. Freshmen Jaedyn Depollo and Camryn Pfister have also had major impacts.
Junior tri-captain Ally Bigham (.315, 12 runs and six RBIs) has started for the past three years at shortstop and is a consistent defensive presence up the middle.
With all of that firepower backing up Baylog’s big right arm the Mavs may have the perfect recipe for success.
“We need to score a couple of runs and we know we’ll be in it,” Baylog said. “We’ve done well limiting the damage if teams do score and we haven’t had any big innings really other than maybe one or two runs scoring.
“Overall, I feel like we have all the tools we need. Our offense is manufacturing runs a little better, but if our defense plays the way that it has we’re going to do great things.”