This wasn’t exactly the way Teurlings Catholic senior catcher Austin Kirkpatrick expected the narrative to read.
Two-year starter; LSU-Eunice signee with a subsequent Division I landing place two years after that.
Not crouched behind the plate anyway.
“I never wanted a part of catching,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick’s baseball roots were primarily at second base, when circumstances dictated otherwise as a seventh-grader that he fill an immediate opening at catcher.
“They stuck me back there, and I’ve loved it ever since,” Kirkpatrick said. “I like being in control. I like being the leader. Being a part of every pitch is what I liked about it the most.”
There are many significant pieces to the puzzle that comprise Teurlings’ No. 1 ranked team.
The Rebels (21-3, 4-0 in District 4-4A) feature experienced, top-of-the-rotation pitching, tremendous hitting and Kirkpatrick, who is considered one of the state’s top catchers in his second full season as a starter.
“I’ve heard from so many college scouts over the summer he was one of the best defensive catchers they saw in the state for this year,” Teurlings coach Mike Thibodeaux said. “He makes us all better: The catchers behind him, the pitchers. He makes the team better.”
Kirkpatrick’s path to becoming a starter was one filled with patience and selflessness, biding his time behind the plate while fulfilling pressing needs to help Teurlings in the outfield and infield in his sophomore season.
Former standouts Chris Trosclair and Garrett O’Friel, who signed with LSU-Alexandria and LSU-Eunice, set the catching bar high for the Rebels and left an example for Kirkpatrick to follow and leave behind.
“Every day I learned from them. I watched them, and that helped me the most,” Kirkpatrick said. “I saw how they did things in games. I saw how they handled themselves, how vocal they were and their presence behind the plate.”
Evidently, Kirkpatrick, whose father Kyle was a quarterback at Louisiana-Lafayette and has coached in the Acadiana area, was a quick study. He embraced the aforementioned intangibles, and combined with a consistent bat and defensive prowess, wound up signing with NJCAA Division II power LSU-Eunice.
Through his annual Easter and summer camps, Thibodeaux said he usually has a pretty good scouting report on the level of talent that one day will funnel through his program.
However, Kirkpatrick was a little more under the radar since he didn’t attend his first camp at Teurlings until the eighth grade before quickly making an impression on his future baseball coach.
Thibodeaux said Kirkpatrick made Teurlings’ U16 team that same summer and wound up getting the opportunity to play with the Rebels’ U18 team during a tournament at Lamar.
“They had guys there throwing that were junior college and (Division I),” Thibodeaux said. “We plugged him in, and he’s hitting fastballs that were low 90s, upper 80s. He looked like a kid that was going to be pretty good for us.”
Kirkpatrick is hitting fifth this season with a .333 average, .405 on-base percent and .591 slugging percentage. He’s collected a pair of homers, seven doubles, two triples and a team-high 25 RBIs.
Clutch-hitting has been a staple for Kirkpatrick.
That’s ranged from the clinching hit in the 14th inning in Teurlings’ Class 4A regional sweep over Belle Chasse in 2015 to this season, when Kirkpatrick homered twice, including a grand slam, in a 7-2 win over St. Michael the Archangel, to delivering the tying triple in the seventh inning last Saturday, helping the Rebels rally for an 8-7 victory over rival St. Thomas More.
“The tough situations are the fun ones,” Kirkpatrick said of the STM game. “Big players are the ones that come up in big games. I wasn’t too nervous. You have to go up there and act like you’re been there before and things ended up going my way.”