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Hays Larks

Kirk catches on with Larks

By Randy Gonzales

HAYS – Easton Kirk’s college numbers looked appealing to Hays Larks manager Frank Leo when he was searching the Internet to add a catcher for the 2018 season. Kirk, a freshman at Wallace State (Ala.) Community College, batted .346 this spring with 10 homers and 52 RBIs. Entering Wednesday’s Jayhawk League game at Dodge City, Kirk was leading the team in home runs (4) and RBIs (19) and was hitting. 342 for Hays (15-5 overall, 9-4 Jayhawk).

June 27 |  2018

“He’s one of those guys that just keeps grinding it out,” Leo said. “Very good hitter, count on him to put good wood on the ball. Each at-bat is very competitive on his part.”

Last year’s Larks hit for power; Kirk has been a power source for the Larks this season. The left-handed hitter has two grand slams plus a game-winning, two-run homer in the 11th inning at Derby over the weekend.

“It was awesome,” Kirk said of the homer against the Twins. “It was the first home run I’ve hit that late in a game.”

Leo likes Kirk’s ability to hit the long ball.

“He’s the guy that has that kind of potential for us, turn the game around in a hurry,” Leo said. “He does bring that element to the plate.”

Kirk said hitting for power was one of his strengths as a player, and he takes pride in his defense, too, blocking balls in the dirt and framing pitches. Leo has noticed that aspect of Kirk’s game.

“His defense, a very good blocker, tough behind the plate, good receiver,” Leo said. “He brings a complete package to the field.”

Leo prefers to carry three catchers during the long, hot summer, where temperatures can soar into the triple digits. That depth is necessary, with Kirk sharing time behind the plate with Scott Wolverton and Cole Solomon. Leo said Wolverton is a capable defensive catcher and Solomon is a versatile switch-hitter who has started at third base in addition to behind the plate.

“It is very helpful, especially after catching this last spring,” Kirk said of the Larks’ catching depth. “It gives my legs a little break between games.”

Leo also can use Kirk at designated hitter to keep his bat in the lineup. Kirk is one of several left-handed hitters on the club, and the Larks are starting to see more and more left-handed starters.

“I think the word’s out; we’re going to see them,” Leo said. “Easton is one of those guys that does get a pretty good swing off a lefty.”

Kirk, who hails from the small town of Piedmont, Ala., population of about 5,000 people, said he is enjoying his time in Hays. He agreed to play for the Larks without knowing anything about the town or fans.

“The atmosphere of the games is pretty cool,” Kirk said. “Coach Leo called and asked me to come. I thought it would be a pretty fun experience.”

Randy Gonzales

Randy is a long time writer for various newspapers and has a passion for sports. He has been writing about the Hays Larks for years and we are proud to have him around!