"I think maybe toward the beginning of the season, I was trying to press too much and do a little too much,'' he said. "I think from the middle to the end of the season, I've been hitting the ball real hard.
"I separate the two parts of the game. Just because it's a strikeout or whatever happens on offense, you've got to play defense. You've got to have sandpaper skin. That's kind of how I look at things. In baseball, you fail most of the time. It's a game of failure. That's how I view the game.''
A different perspective
If nothing else, Dunbar now understands some nuances of the game more after taking the hill as a pitcher.
"It's a different world out on the mound,'' he said. "You're out there all alone with the thoughts in your head. You kind of bring that into your catching mentality. When the pitcher is struggling and you go out to talk to him, you know what to say to him. You know how to deal with that. That part of the game is easier.''
So does Dunbar view himself as a pitcher now - something he never would have done in the past?
"I don't know. To me, I'm always going to be a catcher,'' he said. "The pitching, I'm where I'll do anything to help my team. I've committed myself to that. I bought in, and I would say I've developed a little bit of a pitcher's mentality. I see where they come from now, and I've incorporated that into my catching game.
"It's something where I've matured all together as an all-around player. I kind of understand the game so much more to where I really have a passion. Not that I didn't have it last year, but more so this year. I understand how it works and what I have to do to become successful. It's a new challenge. Other than that, it's been a ride.''
Pritchard always knew Dunbar was competitive. But after seeing him work in last week's regionals - in which Dunbar threw 121/3 of the team's 16 innings in a span of a little over 48 hours - Nitro's coach realized how much of Dunbar's bulldog mentality comes out in his pitching.
"The other night out at Hurricane [in the semifinals],'' Pritchard said, "I looked out to the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Korey is out there warming up [even though he was already pitching]. I said, 'Korey, you all right?' And he said, 'Yeah, I'm just getting ready for all seven innings [in the finals].' He started in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday to get ready for Thursday.''
McDonough, the team's No. 2 pitcher, marveled at how Dunbar - the team's lone senior - bounced back to work nine innings against Winfield after the short turnaround.
"Korey pitched just an amazing game,'' McDonough said. "You just can't say enough about Korey. I don't know anybody else who can do that. He's done that all of his starts. Every single start, he just keeps bringing it up there. Nobody has scored more than one earned run off this guy.''
Pritchard has heard a lot of major league teams express an interest in selecting Dunbar during next month's first-year player draft, but has no idea where he'll go or in what round.
"I've heard everything from the supplemental picks that come between rounds one and two,'' Pritchard said, "as far back as the fifth round.''
Pritchard doesn't think Dunbar's odyssey on the mound has stunted his growth or development as a catcher.
"At the end of the day, he's going to go catch somewhere,'' Pritchard said. "Some of the teams don't really care if he pitches. Some would rather not see him pitch. Other teams said it helped him rise on their boards that he can pitch. With about 30 teams, there are 30 different responses to it.
"The Angels came in over the sectionals with their top hitting guy in the organization and he didn't care if [Dunbar] DH'd, played right field or we got him off the parking lot and let him hit. Hal Morris [formerly of the Reds and now scouting director of the Angels] wasn't interested in watching him pitch at all. He wanted to see him catch. The Braves and some other teams wanted to watch him pitch.
"When the state tournament's over, he may never pitch again. Of course, some people who get drafted and can't hit at that level - and the fact they could throw 92, 93 someday - might make teams make a pitcher out of him before the release him. But with Korey, the only time he's going to step on the mound after he leaves our level will be to talk to the pitcher.''
Dunbar, likewise, doesn't feel like pitching hurts his draft status.
"It helps me tremendously in two aspects,'' he said. "One, they can see my arm's strong, and the biggest thing is they get to see me compete. See my athleticism, I guess.
"Like I said, I'll do anything it takes for us to win a game. That's kind of what I've incorporated into my mentality in my four years here at Nitro. It's helped me become the ballplayer and person I am today.''
Dunbar doesn't anticipate the drafting process to be easy, or even a certainty. He said if he doesn't hear what he wants, he'll head for the Tar Heels program.
"Teams need to get their stories straight for what they're going to do in the draft as far as the collective bargaining agreement,'' he said. "If someone tells you what round you'll go in, they're pretty much lying to you.
"If there was a certain way to do things in the draft one day and it was mapped out, it would be a completely easy process. But it's not. It will be a difficult decision, but if I don't get what I want out of that, I'll go down and play three, four years of college ball.''
With Dunbar's all-around talent, Pritchard knows he could take several different paths to future success, but he's glad the last four years worked out the way they have.
"He could pitch in the West Virginia Conference right now on a full ride, and he could hit, too,'' Pritchard said. "On the other side of the coin, he came to Nitro because of the academics and the other things - and to catch. Korey plays baseball to catch. It gets him to do what he wants to do at the next level. It's a commitment he made to us of time and effort, and the same commitment we made back to him.
"It would have been a lot easier this year to stick Ryan back behind the plate and let Korey play shortstop and pitch. We probably would have won a few more games, maybe not. It would have been a good infield with Korey at shortstop. But his next level's at catching. Whatever it means for Nitro, that's what it means for him.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.