Eyes peering through his mask, Rock Bridge catcher Scott Dunwoody crouches behind the plate during Tuesday’s practice.
The frigid air and a sore right shoulder don’t faze Dunwoody as Steven Farrow tosses a ball in his direction. Dunwoody is quick to respond. The ball bounces off his chest protector and rolls back to Farrow’s feet.
Farrow tosses another, this time to Dunwoody’s left. Dunwoody shifts his weight and again the ball is redirected back toward Farrow.
Dunwoody, a senior, has been a catcher since eighth grade when a teammate broke a finger and he was chosen as the replacement. It has become his home and he’s excited to be on the field again.
He’s sharp. He’s staunch. He likes being in on every pitch.
“I feel like I’m in control of the game,” Dunwoody said.
Dunwoody, a second-team All-State catcher in 2003, leads a core of 10 Bruin seniors into their season opener against Blue Springs South at noon Saturday at Rock Bridge. The Jaguars beat Rock Bridge 7-2 in its 2003 season opener.
Coach Terry Whitney said Dunwoody’s experience and talent gave him the confidence to allow Dunwoody free reign in calling the game.
Dunwoody was also named a co-captain with Tyler Drennan.
“He knows when to go out and talk to them; he knows what pitches to throw,” Whitney said. “We basically said, ‘Scott, it’s your game.’ I have a lot of confidence in him. I trust his opinion a lot.”
Dunwoody, who led the Bruins with a .518 batting average and 20 RBI last season, said he calls pitches based on the situation.
“(The pitchers) know their game plan,” Dunwoody said. “I just try to work them through it. I know what I’d be thinking in that situation so I try to figure out what pitch to call to counter that.”
In addition to calling pitches, Dunwoody has a knack for picking off runners and corralling bad pitches. Senior Andy Burks said Dunwoody’s leadership fosters trust among the pitchers.
“Dunwoody’s great to have behind the plate,” Burks said. “You can pretty much throw anything and he’ll stay in front of a ball in the dirt. He knows the game so well, you don’t have to worry about what to pitch, he’ll even tell you that.”
Whitney said Dunwoody also helps Rock Bridge cover its sins.
“Defensively, he can make a pitcher look good just by blocking the balls; when guys get on, throwing them out and picking them off base,” Whitney said. “So he helps the pitcher out a lot.”
Dunwoody signed a letter of intent to play at Missouri in November and it has helped him ease into the season.
Evan Pratte, an assistant coach at Missouri, also has helped Dunwoody work on the fundamentals.“It’s a relief,” Dunwoody said. “I know for all the guys who want to play at the next level, the pressure is still on them to perform. When you’re signed, you are still working on getting to the next level, but no matter how you do, you still have a spot.”
Dunwoody suffered a setback soon after practice started March 1.
Trying to do too much, too soon, he tweaked something in his right shoulder. He is throwing every other day and he won’t pitch for several weeks. Dunwoody made several relief appearances during his junior season, finishing with a school-record five saves and a 0.10 ERA.
“I’m not going to be pitching until it heals up completely,” Dunwoody said. “The trainers told me I needed to lay off it for a while.”
Contrary to previous seasons, Whitney said, batting, not pitching is Rock Bridge’s strong suit.
“Everybody in our order can hit,” Burks said. “We’ve got a lot of power hitters and then we’ve also got people who can drop down bunts and also hit for doubles, singles and what’s needed.”
The Bruins hope this power can carry them past the district tournament and to the state tournament.
Rock Bridge finished 16-6 in 2003, losing 7-4 to Helias in the Class 4 District 10 championship game.
“We got to the finals, now we need to get past that,” Whitney said. “We’ve been building up, building up, and we finally got there. Now we need to do something to get past that.”