It would have been a front-page story, and maybe it should have been.
Had a throw from center been off the mark by a couple more inches, or Wahconah’s offense come up with a couple more timely hits, Kyle Kirchner might be the talk of the entire Western Mass Baseball tournament.
Unfortunately, in the senior’s return to the hill, the Warriors fell to an upstart Hampshire Regional team 2-1 in the Division III semifinals.
On May 18, 2015, Kirchner and teammate Will Genaway collided while tracking a fly ball to shallow left field. Genaway was playing shortstop, while Kirchner came rushing in from his spot in left.
After laying still on the field for a while, both players were sent to Berkshire Medical Center. Initially, it was thought that that was the end of both players’ season.
While Genaway suffered the worst of the hit (a fractured jaw and injured leg), Kirchner underwent surgery on his eye area, but still didn’t figure he’d be back on the field in 2015.
After a second eye surgery, and with another one coming soon, that opinion started changing.
“I honestly didn’t think so,” said Kirchner about whether he thought he’d play again this season. “Until last week. I still need to get surgery on my eye for the third time.”
When the Warriors’ playoff opener rolled around, Kirchner wasn’t going miss the opportunity to play in front of his home crowd one last time. He was a part of Wahconah’s 3-1 win over Easthampton, and even warmed up for relief work, though he wasn’t ultimately needed.
After a bullpen session with starting catcher Matt Schneider, the junior backstop told his coach Kirchner looked good to go.
So, Jared Shannon made the call. Kirchner would get the start against Hampshire in the semifinals, with a shot to play for a Western Mass title on the line.
While the final score had Wahconah on the short end, it was still a gutsy performance from the pitcher, who at one point got a glove on a rocket back in the vicinity of his head. At another juncture, Kirchner leapt off the mound to field a bunt cleanly and get the lead runner at third.
In all, Kirchner went seven innings, clearly laboring in the latter ones, striking out four and surrendering just two runs. It was a performance good enough to win, and one his teammates could rally around.
“He’s got a lot of heart,” said Shannon. “He pitched a great game, but he has pitched sharper games. I’ll be honest, they didn’t hit him. There were a lot of 50-foot ground balls that got guys on base. That’s because he is so hard to hit.”
With his senior season wrapped up, Kirchner will now consider his options for the future. One of which, he says, could be continuing to play baseball out at Hudson Valley.