CLEARWATER, Fla. — Brent Kirkley sat at the banquet during the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II baseball tournament wondering why his coaches were looking at him.
He found out the reason soon enough.
Kirkley heard his name called during the announcing of the All-American team. Moments later he was summoned back to the stage when he was selected as the national pitcher of the year.
The 2008 graduate of Temple Christian helped lead Clearwater Christian College to a second-place finish in tournament and the honors were a bit of a shock.
“It was a surprise,” Kirkley said. “I hurt my arm and missed part of the season. I didn’t think I would get any awards.”
Kirkley lowered his ERA by nearly a point from the previous season. Kirkley finished with a 2.86 earned run average, fourth best in the country, and struck out 63 in 56 2/3 innings as a junior.
“Brent has had another great season as the ace of our pitching staff,” CCC athletic director James Whitaker said. “To be named NCCAA national pitcher of the year is an amazing honor — especially considering the depth and quality of the pitching at this level.”
Even though Kirkley is happy to have received the individual accolades, he would have rather walked out of Cincinnati, Ohio with a national championship.
Clearwater Christian opened the tournament with a victory over Manhattan Christian before falling to Toccoa Falls and dropping down to the loser’s bracket. Facing three elimination contests, Clearwater Christian knocked off Atlanta Christian, Ohio Christian and Dallas Christian to advance to the finals against Toccoa Falls.
“It was disappointing to not win the title,” Kirkley said. “The good news for next year is we are returning just about everybody. We only lost three or four guys off last year’s team.”
Heading to the beach
When Kirkley was looking for college, he relied on the recommendation of an acquaintance and future teammate — Joe Keen.
“I had a friend that was at a rival high school and he went here,” Kirkley said. “I wanted to go to a Christian college to play baseball. I went down there to see what it was all about. I just loved the atmosphere of the school and the players were nice.”
n Contact Sports editor Shawn Stinson at 997-3111, ext. 14 or email@example.com