2016 Baseball Preview

Adam+throws+an+out+to+first+%28left%29+and+Luke+waits+for+a+pitch+%28right%29+vs+Eureka+at+home+March+26.

photos courtesy of Adam and Luke

Adam throws an out to first (left) and Luke waits for a pitch (right) vs Eureka at home March 26.

Dom Palombo, sports writer

The varsity baseball team is going into the spring trying to repeat as conference champs, but with four players on their way to college ball this fall and load of experience, two of the team’s biggest weapons hope to bring their talented squad to state.

“Last year was the first year we won conference in a long time,” Adam Kohl, senior, said. “So we’re [going to] try to do that again and make it out of districts. That’s definitely what we’re focusing on.”

Kohl, shortstop, is entering his fourth and final season at the position and is looking forward to a strong season and redemption to nearby rival, Vianney.

“We haven’t beaten Vianney while I’ve been here,” Kohl said. “So that’s definitely a game we are looking to win in the regular season and hopefully in districts too.”

Another star player returning in 2016 is Luke Lowry, senior and left fielder, and reigning Suburban South 12 Conference Co-Player of the Year. His approach to every game is echoed in the rest of the players: focus on today, not tomorrow.

“You kind of try to take it one game at a time,” Lowry said. “And give your best in every game and hopefully win districts.”

Chris Berry, senior center fielder and first baseman, sees it the same way, that the team has to take it game-by-game and not look too far ahead and become complacent.

“With every high school season, your ultimate goal is to get to the state championship game and win it,” Berry said. “But before that, we have to take care of our regular season and we’ve got to make it through districts and we have a really hard district this year with St. Louis University High and Vianney.”

Another senior, pitcher Jack Radt, is excited for the season as the team will be led largely by seniors while surrounded with strong junior and sophomore talent.

“I think we have a really strong team this year,” Radt said. “The Class of 2016 last year did a good job on varsity so I’m excited to see where we go this year. It should be a fun time.”

Understanding the road ahead, Berry sees how Kohl and Lowry have not taken shortcuts to get where they are today.

“They’ve got fantastic work ethics and are two of the hardest workers on the team,” Berry said. “Adam’s in the weight room every day in the offseason, and Luke is playing football so they’re both staying in shape and always in the [batting] cages — they’ll hit, ask for extra reps. They work hard.”

The efforts will only improve the team’s opportunity to go farther in the playoffs this season, and that is the ultimate goal for the guys playing their final games of high school in the spring, according to Kohl and Lowry.

“Definitely with it being senior year, you [want to] go out strong,” Kohl said. “And you can’t go out any better than state. That’s always been the goal and that we can make a run at it.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 8.33.43 AM
National Signing Day Feb. 4 in the David Holley Assembly Hall. From left to right: Ryan Higginbothom (soccer/South Dakota School of Mines and Technology), Adam Kohl (Johns Hopkins), Luke Lowry (Iowa Western Community College), Tyler Lien (Northern Iowa Area Community College), Cole Matheis (not signed) and Connor Cline (Meramac).

Kohl and Lowry are among those returning and four players signed to play collegiately next season in either NCAA or NJCAA (Junior College). Kohl will be attending Johns Hopkins University and Lowry will be at Iowa Western Community College. The other two signees, pitchers Tyler Lien at Northern Iowa Area C.C. and Connor Cline at Meramec C.C. The four signees’ teammates are thrilled for what they bring to the table and how they can help the baseball team this season. Radt thinks the team will only benefit from playing with guys who are going to the next level after season’s end.

“I’m excited for them,” Radt said. “I think it’s cool for the Kirkwood baseball program to have four guys of collegiate caliber on the team.”

Berry is hopeful the high ability level added with senior leadership can help the team get over the hump of districts and make a run in the playoffs.

“We’ve got college level players and we’ve got the experience,” Berry said. “There’s a couple guys who’ve been up there for three, four years. We’re going into the season pretty confident.”

Their reasons for working hard for so many years to get to this point were the guys’ love for the game. That love is engineered in part by early chances for each to make their mark on varsity as a freshman for Kohl, and as a sophomore for Lowry.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do ever since I started playing so when I got the opportunity I couldn’t pass it up,” Kohl said.

They both elaborated on the pros and cons to their college choices and playing time was at the forefront of their lists. Lowry sees the junior college two-year route as a way to improve his game better in preparation for what he hopes is four years of NCAA baseball afterward.

“Well, at a four-year school I would likely have to sit, but at JuCo I would be able to go up there and contribute right away so that’s definitely a perk,” Lowry said. “A con I would say is having to go through the recruiting process and find a new school after the two years there.”

Kohl said he looked at the whole picture in his decision, taking into account his opportunity for on-field success as well as education.

“Making my decision, I definitely took into account if I was going to play freshman and sophomore year, and it looks like I’ll have that opportunity,” Kohl said. “And I was also focused on going to the best academic school I could possibly go to and also some opportunity to play.”

Through practice and repetition, Kohl and Lowry have been able to consistently improve and make an impact at the varsity level. The combined five-years of varsity experience thus far and year-round baseball teams aided in Kohl and Lowry’s progress and it has not gone unnoticed.

“Adam’s arm has improved phenomenally since we were playing with each other freshman year. He’s got himself a hose,” Berry said. “Luke is one of the most consistent hitters in the area, always up there in batting average and hits. They’ve both worked really hard to get where they are now and it’s really paying off.”