Dougherty can do

Grady Dougherty's hitting has put him in the cleanup role in Iola High's baseball lineup. He also has emerged as a reliable pitcher, one of many reasons he was voted the Iola Register's Male Athlete of the Month for March.

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Sports

April 11, 2024 - 2:31 PM

Iola High's Grady Dougherty has been voted the Iola Register's March Athlete of the Month. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

If Iola High’s baseball season ends on a successful note, a pair of early losses may be the key,  the Mustangs’ Grady Dougherty said this week.

Iola entered the March 28 doubleheader with high hopes, but instead dropped both games by a combined 13 runs.

“We walked in there thinking we could do what we’ve done in the past and win,” Dougherty explained. 

But winning requires more than just showing up, he said.

When Iola dropped a heartbreaker the following day, extending the team’s losing streak to four, Dougherty sensed a change.

Since then, Iola has won 5 of 6, including a split against defending state power Santa Fe Trail, and a sweep Tuesday of Pioneer League rival Anderson County.

“We’re starting to figure things out as a team,” said Dougherty, Iola’s starting first baseman and cleanup hitter.

The junior slugger has had a big role in the team’s resurgence, batting .303 with a team- leading 13 RBIs and six doubles.

Dougherty also has developed as one of the team’s frontline pitchers, striking out seven batters over 10 innings, with a 2.10 ERA over four games.

Dougherty’s early success prompted Register readers to select him as the Male Athlete of the Month. For the honor, Dougherty receives a free specialty pizza at Rookies.

Iola High’s Grady Dougherty pitches in a game earlier this season.Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

DOUGHERTY already had made his mark both on the football field and basketball court, earning all-league recognition in both sports.

But baseball, even as a youth, was where his passion lies.

“The other sports are tough, but with baseball, you have to be mentally tough, too,” he explained. “Even if you go 1 for 4 with three strikeouts, you can still help the team in other ways.”

Dougherty’s makeup, even in his younger years, was to develop mentally. He encouraged his coaches, including his father Mike Dougherty, for honest criticism of his work.

“I ask them to pick me apart,” Dougherty said. “I’ve always wanted to be the guy people can lean on.”

His approach at the plate has taught Dougherty to avoid trying to pull the ball.

“Every coach I’ve ever had has told me the same thing, think right field, right-center. I’ve taken that into practice and have gotten better at hitting the ball.”

And while Iola’s top two pitchers, seniors Korbin Cloud and Mac Leonard, deservedly remain entrenched atop the Mustang pitching staff, Dougherty takes pride in his ability to throw strikes.

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