September 29, 2016

Kyle Uhrich: Webster male athlete of the year

While at Maryville University, Kyle Uhrich spent most of his time on the mound. The coaching staff there planned to use him almost exclusively as a pitcher. But after transferring to Webster University, Uhrich is now one of the best hitters in all of division-III baseball.

Uhrich arrived at Webster University in January. He decided to transfer because Webster offered computer science, the major he wanted to pursue. He also wanted to show he could play a bigger role than the one placed on him at Maryville.

“I barely played,” Uhrich said. “The coaching staff only saw me as a pitcher, but I wanted to bat.”

As a freshman at Maryville, Uhrich was mainly used as a pitcher — both as a starter and a reliever. He appeared six times on the mound, posting a 1-2 record and a 2.38 earned run average. Uhrich batted .245 but only had 52 plate appearances. Uhrich recorded 13 hits and 7 RBIs from the 2014 season.

At Webster, Uhrich is hitting .369 and leads the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) in slugging percentage (.766%), RBIs (52), home runs (15) and total bases (110).

“It’s great to know you have been recognized for your hard work,” Uhrich said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

The Webster University baseball team is 27-10 on the season and 16-3 in conference play. Webster is sitting in first place in the SLIAC Western Division.

Uhrich found exactly what he was looking for to be successful at Webster. Head Baseball Coach Bill Kurich knew exactly what he was getting when Uhrich came onto the team.

“He’s been great for us so far,” Kurich said. “We knew (Uhrich) was a physically gifted kid coming into the season. We knew he was going to be strong.”

Uhrich has hit 15 home runs, the most in Division-III baseball this season. With three regular season games left, Uhrich is currently second on Webster’s all-time single season home run list.

“He hits good pitching, and he hits bad pitching,” Kurich said. “You watch (Uhrich) bat two or three times, and it’s pretty obvious he’s a very powerful young man.”

Uhrich agrees more at-bats this year have helped his confidence at the plate.

“I got more at-bats here, and I just got on a roll and kept going,” Uhrich said.

With 52 RBIs on the season, Uhrich has moved into fifth place on Webster’s single-season RBI list. With runners on base, Uhrich has had 90 at-bats and is hitting .367.

“(Uhrich) has provided a very fearful middle of the lineup,” Kurich said. “He comes up big for us, and that’s exactly what we needed from him.”

That fearful middle of the lineup includes senior third baseman Jeff Kammer and junior outfielder Blake Thomas. Kammer is hitting .391 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs, while Thomas is hitting .366 with two home runs and 32 RBIs.

For pitchers, facing the middle of the Gorloks’ lineup is a scary thing, Kammer said.

“When facing the heart of the order like they have, they just do their very best to pitch around the strike zone,” Kammer said. “They want to follow a pattern and keep it low so we don’t hit it a country mile.”

While he has played as the first baseman and relief pitcher at Webster, Uhrich won the conference player of the year his senior year at Webster Groves High School as a catcher.

Uhrich had never played first base before college. He admitted it has taken some time to adjust to the new position, but he feels comfortable now. After 34 games, he has a fielding percentage of .981% with only six errors.

“I always caught or pitched growing up,” Uhrich said. “When coach wanted me to play first base, it was tough, but if that’s what I have to do to play, then that’s fine.”

First base is not the only position Uhrich is going to be playing during his time at Webster. After this 2015 season, key pieces in the starting rotation and bullpen will be graduating, including Issac Behme, Chris Jansen, Dylan Dean Smith and Zach Sneider. Coach Kurich expects to see Uhrich on the mound more in years to come.

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