Developing players and sending them off to collegiate programs has become about as routine for D.H. Conley baseball coach Jason Mills as catching a lazy fly ball to center.
Two more Vikings signed letters of intent on Monday, bringing to 41 the number of
Conley players to extend their careers beyond high school since 2000. Third baseman Brock Cross signed with Chowan University, joining his brother, Kyle, a rising senior. Right-handed pitcher David Dobson signed with UNC Asheville, the fourth year in a row Mills has sent a pitcher to a Division I program.
“I’ve had a good run of arms, and the nice thing is I’ve got a couple more coming,” Mills said.
Dobson played youth baseball in Oak CIty before moving to Greenville before his freshman year and joining the Conley program. He said playing at the college level has been a longtime dream, and UNC Asheville provided the best opportunity among the schools that recruited him.
“I started pitching when I was 9, and it’s something I’ve dreamed of, to play Division I baseball,” Dobson said. ““I think Coach Mills has helped me a lot and helped in the recruiting process and developing my mechanics. … A weight has been lifted of my shoulders.”
Dobson worked just 4.1 innings as a sophomore on a pitching-rich team that finished 23-4, posting a 1-0 record with 3.23 ERA. He finished 4-2 last year with 1.82 ERA, allowing just 23 hits in 34.2 innings with 50 strikeouts and 24 walks.
Senior Noah Jones and sophomore Robbie O’Neal, who has committed to UNC Greensboro, emerged as the featured pitchers last year, but Mills said Dobson should get his turn to shine this year.
“We knew he was going to be great,” Mills said. “He came in and already had a big arm, and it was just a matter of continually trying to develop him. … He’ll pitch in the upwards of 88 miles an hour to 89 miles an hour, but the breaking ball is his bread and butter.”
Cross continues a family tradition of playing at Conley and moving on to play in college. Kyle Cross is entering his senior year at Chowan, and Travis Cross played at Lenoir Community College. Younger brother Skyler is a sophomore at Conley.
“I can’t remember the last time I didn’t write the name Cross in the lineup,” Mills said.
Mills penciled in Brock Cross last year, and the third baseman hit .315 with three doubles, two homers and 17 RBI.
“Brock is a kid that has really developed from his freshman year to where he is now,” Mills said. “He keeps getting better and better and better every year. He made a quick adjustment for us last year coming off the JV to varsity and gave us some punch in the middle.
“He’s continually getting better defensively with his feet and his hands,” Mills said. “He’s got a big-time arm, and we kind of joked about maybe letting him pitch a little bit, and that’s possibly an option for us this year.”