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Dawsy hitting new highs

Brian Dawsy can laugh about it, but his struggles at the plate in 2001 caused many sleepless nights.

He hit just .068.

"That stuck with me all through the summer," Dawsy said. "Having that batting average hanging over my head made me work harder."

He is seeing the rewards.

At the midway point of the regular season, the 5-foot-8, 171-pound junior rightfielder is batting .315 and leads Lecanto in hits, doubles and total bases. He has 9 walks, a .474 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases. In the field, Dawsy has four assists and one error.

His success is magnified when you consider this: The Panthers' batting average is .188.

"He's been the catalyst of our offense," first-year coach Brian Donovan said. "He's picked up a lot of the slack."

Experience is a factor.

In 2001, Dawsy's first with the varsity, he was overwhelmed at times. But as he struggled, he watched and learned.

"Last year was probably the worst baseball year I've ever played," Dawsy said. "And it seemed like bad luck followed me.

"It was a big transition going from JV to the varsity. The intensity is a lot higher. Sometimes I think I would have been better off on the JV, but being on the varsity gave me a feel of what you need to be successful."

Not wanting a repeat, Dawsy spent the offseason in the weight room. His bench press jumped from 175 to 215 pounds. In the fall, he kept in shape by playing defensive back for the football team.

And, he set lofty goals.

"If your expectations are low, you'll go low in life," Dawsy said. "You should always make your expectations higher than you can reach."

In Lecanto's first game, Dawsy went 3-for-4 and had two doubles, which topped his production from the previous year and set the tone for what has been a productive season.

Much of the credit, he says, goes to Donovan.

"He has helped a lot," Dawsy said. "He's more hands-on with me. If he sees a glitch in the swing, we'll go in the cage and work on it and get rid of the glitch for the next game."

Donovan said patience is the key to Dawsy's improvement.

"He has an understanding of how to put the ball in play," Donovan said.

Dawsy hopes to finish the season with an average of .400 or better, which would be quite an accomplishment for someone who didn't hit his weight last year.

"I'm a totally different player out there this season," Dawsy said. "My confidence is a lot higher. My all-around game and my attitude on the field have improved. It's been a total turnaround."