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Top-ranked Bulldogs find maturity behind the plate in Hagedorn
Many players cannot step in and assume the role as starting catcher for the top-ranked team in the state.
Notre Dame junior Mark Hagedorn not only accepted the role, he is excelling in it.
"I felt I had a little bit of expectations," Hagedorn said. "But I was excited for the opportunity to start."
He started on the junior varsity and caught six games for the varsity team last season. He's started all 28 games for Class 3's top-ranked team this season.
Some would say he was born for this -- both his father and uncle played baseball for Notre Dame.
"My dad and uncle were both three-sport athletes when they went to Notre Dame," he said.
Hagedorn has been solid behind the plate all season. He was named the team's defensive player of the year after committing only one error.
"It is vital to have a solid catcher like Mark behind the plate," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said. "He has matured both mentally and physically throughout the season."
Hagedorn took the time to work on his game during the offeseason, like improving his arm strength. He even attended the Cherokee Baseball Academy with teammate Colton Young this summer.
"I got a chance to work with former major leaguer Scott Little at the academy," Hagedorn said.
Little played professional baseball for eight seasons, including a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991.
Hagedorn also improved his hitting, batting .387 and ranking third on the team with 28 RBIs.
Hagedorn also has taken the time to develop a good relationship with his pitching staff. He spends time with his pitchers on and off the field to make sure they are on the same page.
"You have to make sure you know your pitchers," Hagedorn said. "I worked all summer with Colton. Dylan [Drury] and I have been working together, too."
Young agrees that it's important for a pitcher and catcher to have a strong relationship.
"I go out there and feel comfortable," Young said. "We go out there and he knows what I want to do."
Both Drury and Young have undefeated records on the mound with Hagedorn behind the plate.
While some of his teammates are multi-sport athletes, playing either soccer or basketball, Hagedorn's only sport is baseball. He played basketball his freshman year, but said the sport took up too much of his time during the offseason.
"I wanted to focus on baseball," he said. "It's my love."
Hagedorn doesn't have much time for anything besides baseball these days.
"We used to go to Kentucky Lake a lot, but we don't get the chance to go that often because I play summer ball," he said.
Up next for Hagedorn and his teammates is the Class 3 final four in Springfield this weekend. He hopes to capture the state title that eluded the Bulldogs last year.
"It would be wonderful, especially after going last year and getting third," he said.
Four of his teammates already have won state titles in other sports.
Ryan Bass has two titles in soccer (2006, 2007), while Jake Pewitt (2007) and Jimmy Obermark (2007) have one in soccer and Austin Greer has one in basketball (2008).
Hagedorn said he sometimes feels a little envious of his teammates because they have rings.
"It would be great to have one myself," he said.