Striking early: Star hurlers start careers

By Josh Brown

Every athlete has to start out somewhere. Many scouts do not take athletes seriously until they have followed them throughout their college careers and seen how they have performed against better competition and greater pressure.

For Lady Bulldogs’ pitchers Brooke Thomas, athletic training major, and Keaton Kirk, athletic training major, that recognition came right out of the gate this year the freshmen produced outstanding results.

The Lady Bulldogs aces pitched over half of the games this season, posting ridiculous stats along the way. Both women had a combined record of 32–12 with Kirk going 13–4 and 19–8 for Thomas on the regular season. Kirk threw 126 innings with 115 strike-outs, posting a 2.11 ERA and had opponents batting just .232 against her. In 179 innings pitched, Thomas struck out 180 batters posting at 1.56 ERA and held opposing batters to a .212 average.

“It has meant a lot to me,” Kirk said. “I never thought that I would be able to come in and do that as a freshman. I think it helped me prove to myself that I am capable to do anything I set my mind to.”

Thomas added, “It really does mean a lot because coming in as freshmen, you don’t typically get that chance and you sit the bench. It shows that we worked hard in the off-season to get those positions and come out and show that we can compete.”

Both women had successful high school careers and said their time there prepared them for college in many ways.

“I didn’t have the kind of defense (in high school) that I have here backing me up,” Kirk said. “I had to learn not to get frustrated and keep working hard, so it helped me with becoming mentally tougher.”

Thomas said, “As far as pitching goes, high school prepared me. Making it to state and the competition there allowed me to gain more experience and times of facing pressure.”

From a freshman standpoint, the first year in college is nerve-wracking, worrying how the welcome will be, as well as the first start.

“I was pretty nervous my first start,” Kirk said. “I was used to being top dog in high school, but when I got here I knew the competition level would be (higher).”

Thomas said, “I was nervous, as well, because it was my first start. I didn’t know what to expect out of my opponents. I knew I had to do well or I wouldn’t get to play. Now it has become natural.”

It helps to get through such times when one’s sister is the assistant coach, and that has been the case for Kirk with her older sister, Kristen.

“It has been pretty cool because we have never been able to be on the same team together,” Kirk said. “She is always there to help me out and give me advice. Of course, it helps that she is my sister and I know her number and where she lives.”

Thomas pitched a complete game one-hitter against Mid-Continent University late in March, missing the no-hitter by a slim margin. Kirk achieved that feat earlier in April against Louisiana State University- Alexandria, fanning eight batters in seven innings and allowing one walk.

“Other games I’ve had, I would think about it and jinx it,” Kirk said. “That game I didn’t. I just went out and it would end up happening. It was definitely more exciting in college than in high school because the hitters are better and it was at the next level.”

l more capable knowing I could do what I wanted to do and be effective.”

“A big goal I’ve added since the season started is to stay calm,” Thomas said. “If we both do that, I believe we will succeed and work our hardest to help the team get to the nationals.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.