Auxiliary Nines: Northern Virginia’s Nine Dirtbags

June 26 - It’s safe to say Will Pope left it all on the field this season. 

Woodbridge’s senior catcher had his shoulder dislocated during a midseason collision in practice. After having the shoulder popped back in by a trainer, he was back behind the plate in the Vikings’ next game four days later. 

A couple weeks later, he dislocated the same shoulder when he slipped while sprinting to back up his first baseman on a ground ball during an April 11 game at Colgan. He missed one game, then returned to the lineup as the team’s first baseman over spring break. On May 3, he dislocated it a third time sliding headfirst into third base against C.D. Hylton. Pope’s doctor said his season was over and surgery was scheduled for May 15. 

Pope, however, was able to convince the doctor to let him play one final game, and he went 1-for-3 in a 4-0 loss to Colgan in the Cardinal District quarterfinals on May 14. His season and high school career had ended, but not before the second-team all-district pick left a lasting impression on Woodbridge coach Jim Hoffman.

“I have such respect for Will and his commitment to baseball and his team,” Hoffman said. “I can’t imagine any tougher kid.”

Pope leads the magazine’s Nine Dirtbags, a group that also includes Freedom-South Riding’s Drew Caroline, Colgan’s Brady Carter, South Lakes’ Ryan Dooley, Forest Park’s Andrew Frye, South County’s Frank Hutson, Potomac’s Braden Mack, C.D. Hylton’s Ethan Marotske and Lake Braddock’s Connor O’Grady-Walsh. 

The Auxiliary Nines are part of our NOVA Nine Team series honoring the top players from Northern Virginia. The series is sponsored by The St. James in Springfield. 

Here’s a look at this year’s selections: 

Drew Caroline, Senior, Freedom-South Riding - A two-year starter behind the plate for the Eagles known for his hustle, leadership and coachability and one of the area’s top defensive catchers. Will play at Christopher Newport University. 

Brady Carter, Senior, Colgan - A two-time All-Region 6C selection at third base who also pitched and provided leadership for a young Sharks team. Will play at Coker College in South Carolina. 

Ryan Dooley, Junior, South Lakes - A versatile middle infielder and outfielder who earned second-team All-Region 6D honors despite playing through the effects of a broken hand suffered over spring break. Has committed to play at the Virginia Military Institute. 

Andrew Frye, Senior, Forest Park - The catcher was a defensive stalwart over the past two years for the Bruins, helping them reach the Region 6C semifinals this spring after winning the Cardinal District title in 2018. Will play at Elmira College in New York. 

Frank Hutson, Senior, South County - The outfielder hit just .158, but drew 18 walks and was hit by a pitch four times while producing a .405 on-base percentage and stealing 11 stolen bases. Earned the Stallions’ Coach’s Award. “He was hurt the final three weeks - not even able to take infield/outfield - but still turned in very good defense,” said Stallions coach Scott Nelson. 

Braden Mack, Junior, Potomac - The NOVA Nine Team selection did it all - he started games behind the plate, on the mound, and at times would strip the catchers’ gear to come on and close games - helping the Panthers win the Cardinal District championship while hitting .449 with 25 RBI and going 6-1 with a 0.79 ERA. “He’s the dirtiest guy on the field every game,” Panthers coach Mike Covington said. 

Ethan Marotske, Junior, C.D. Hylton - A two-year starter who earned first-team All-Cardinal District honors after hitting .333 with 25 hits and 17 RBI this spring. “He is a gamer. Plays hard every inning. Most days at practice I have to tell him to tone it down [while diving for everything] so he doesn’t get hurt. Wish I had 14 more of him,” said Bulldogs coach Jason Ritenour.

Connor O’Grady Walsh, Senior, Lake Braddock - Hadn’t caught in more than two years, but was moved behind the plate after Grant Hartman had knee surgery in January. Joined the team after his basketball season ended, then became more comfortable handling pitchers while helping the Bruins win the Region 6C and Class 6 state championships. “His leadership on the field was constant and he stayed tough all year through highs and lows. Connor grinded and grinded all year with [catchers coach Garrett] Driscoll and made himself into an outstanding high school catcher by the time the season ended. He was a huge reason for our success this year,” said Bruins coach John Thomas. 

Will Pope, Senior, Woodbridge - Caught and played first base despite dislocating his shoulder on three occasions en route to second-team All-Cardinal District honors. Will play at Chesapeake College in Maryland. “I can’t imagine any tougher kid. I love this young man,” said Vikings coach Jim Hoffman. 

Photo of Woodbridge’s Will Pope by Michael Greene