Athlete of the Week: Dodson off to surprisingly hot start at the plate for Wildcats

Ronnie Dodson Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Ronnie Dodson’s role as the primary designated hitter for Warren County High School’s varsity baseball team has allowed the sophomore to place most of his focus on his approach at the plate. Through the Wildcats’ first four games, he’s been zeroed in.

Although it’s early, Dodson led the Wildcats in batting average, doubles, RBIs and on-base percentage entering Tuesday’s road game at William Monroe following a stellar three-game stretch last week, which has fueled the sophomore’s memorable varsity baseball debut.

“We always knew that he’s pretty talented,” Warren County head coach Mike Minch said of Dodson, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for March 27-April 1, before Monday’s practice, “but to come in and say that we expected him to do as well as he is, I’d be lying.

“But he’s worked tremendously from the beginning of the season, even in the offseason, in the winter in the cages and with team workouts. It’s good to see some of that work paying off. Like I said, we knew he was talented, we just didn’t know if he could catch fire how well he would go.”

Dodson, who had a .615 batting average (8-for-13) and a .667 on-base percentage in 15 plate appearances entering Tuesday, had a hit in each of Warren County’s first four games and broke out with an impressive three-game stretch last week that helped Warren County (3-1) produce a trio of wins.

The sophomore right-hander went 7-for-10 in those three victories with three doubles, eight RBIs and four runs scored.

“I think he’s really just fearless and he’s not thinking. He just goes up there with a clear mind and whatever the situation is he’s got a plan,” Minch said. “And that’s one thing we’re trying to preach, and Ronnie’s definitely bought into that, going up to the plate with a good approach, letting the ball travel, getting on top. And he’s finding some early success in that.”

Dodson and the Wildcats opened last week with a 12-0 blowout win over cross-town rival Skyline on March 27, a game in which Warren County erupted for 11 hits in the five-inning game shortened due to the mercy rule. Dodson – whose older brother, Jacob, tossed five scoreless innings for the Wildcats in the win – had just one of those hits, a line drive single to right field to begin a six-run third inning, but he finished with two RBIs by working a pair of walks with the bases loaded.

The sophomore did a bit more swinging the rest of the week.

In an 8-4 victory at James Wood last Wednesday, Dodson went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. He drove in three more runs last Thursday during another 3-for-4 effort – which included his third double of the season – in a 10-2 win over George Mason.

“Just basically really all I can worry about is hitting the ball,” said Dodson, who started the season opener at catcher and another game at second but will serve primarily as a utility infielder and see most of his at-bats as a DH this spring.

“I was a little nervous the first game but then I got used to it real quick, especially hitting the ball. Playing the field I’m still a little nervous because I don’t play as much, but hitting the ball, I’m pretty confident up there.”

That confidence on the baseball diamond, Dodson continued, has been aided by the contributions he made to Warren County’s varsity football team during the fall, when he saw action as a running back and linebacker and finished as the Wildcats’ leading rusher.

Additionally the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Dodson credited the work in the weight room that accompanied football with providing the rise in gap power he’s experienced on the baseball field early this spring.

Minch said Dodson’s hitting-centric role as a DH, and the fewer on-field responsibilities that come along with it, is “definitely leading to some of that success” at the plate for the sophomore as well.

“He’s focused on his at-bats, his approach and getting in that box and really just competing his butt off,” the head coach said. “That’s something he’s been doing and quite frankly one through nine, all our guys have bought in. They’ve really done a pretty good job, especially last week. And it definitely showed.”

The Wildcats, a young team that graduated seven senior starters off its 2016 squad, will aim to keep things rolling during another three-game stretch this week that included Tuesday’s road trip to William Monroe before a rematch with Skyline on Thursday and a home game against Strasburg Friday.

“The thing is, they’re gelling together as a team and they believe in each other and they believe in the process which we’re trying to contribute to them and trying to tell them what’s going on,” Minch said. “They believe and it definitely shows.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com

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