Chagrin Falls’ senior Andrew Kirkpatrick realized his dream of playing college baseball after he signed his letter of intent to play at Wittenberg University on Nov. 10.

Whenever Chagrin Falls’ senior Andrew Kirkpatrick meets anyone for the first time, they immediately are impressed by his size. High school kids the size of 6-foot-4 don’t grow on trees.

Kirkpatrick said that most people instantly assume he plays football. They would be partially correct but he only sees the gridiron when he comes out to punt or kick. His true love has always been baseball.

That’s why when graduation rolls around next spring, the South Russell native will be taking his talents to NCAA Division III Wittenberg University. The Tigers’ senior officially signed his letter of intent on Nov. 10 at Chagrin Falls High School.

Kirkpatrick received an official offer from Wittenberg University during September and scheduled a visit to the campus. Two days after touring Wittenberg University, Kirkpatrick was in.

“I had very high expectations and what I saw from Wittenberg blew every expectation out of the water,” he said. “I knew throughout the tour of the school with the coaches I can definitely see myself here. It’s a perfect distance from home, location and I have all the facilities I can dream of.”

He officially announced his commitment to Wittenberg University on social media on Oct. 1.

In his junior season, he hit .281/450/.382 with six doubles, one home run and drove in 31 RBIs s through 31 contests. He also became the number three pitcher in the Chagrin Falls’ rotation, posting a 5-2 record with a 1.87 ERA over 33.2 innings of work while allowing only nine earned runs on 29 hits while walking 15 and striking out 26 through nine games.

Kirkpatrick had always been one of the biggest kids in his grade. His size made him a natural fit for athletic events but he focused on baseball because he loved the feeling of having a bat in his hands.

“Swinging a bat is what made me fall in love with the sport,” he explained. “My hitting has always been my strongest asset. I’ve always loved hitting and working on my hitting. It was probably the deciding factor as to why I fell in love with the sport.”

He started out playing with Chagrin Falls’ recreation teams before moving up to travel leagues when he was 12. Because of his size and talent, he played with older kids for several seasons.

Despite being the youngest player on his travel teams, Kirkpatrick proved he could bridge the gap. Once he reached the 12-U level of Release baseball, his teammates started to physically mature widening the gap between him and the older competition.

“It was tough because the pitchers were starting to grow muscle and I was still the young kid who wasn’t as strong yet,” he noted. “That year was especially hard for me because I was not as strong as those kids so I had struggles and I decided to go back to my age group and compete with the kids my age.”

Chagrin Falls coach Michael Sweeney kept a close eye on Kirkpatrick as he advanced through the school district. He first encountered Kirkpatrick when he arrived at a football camp for third graders. He was still in second grade but his mother convinced the coaches to let him play with the big kids.

“I knew of his athleticism and size,” said the 21-year coach. “We were very excited when he was a freshman coming in. We never make determinations until we actually see them in practice with all the older guys but we certainly knew there was a chance he could fill one of those positions for us and he came in. Every kid is a little bit nervous but he was very confident in himself that he could come in as a freshman and play.”

Sweeney named Kirkpatrick the starting first baseman prior to the beginning of his freshman year. Kirkpatrick became one of the Tigers’ best hitters by hitting .368, launching six doubles, two home runs, and driving in 32 runs.

“Andrew was huge,” praised Sweeney. “It’s hard for a freshman to get in and start for four years let alone produce right in the middle of the order. I don’t think everybody understands how much differently you get pitched when you’re hitting third, fourth or fifth as opposed to seventh, eighth, and ninth.. You see a lot more curveballs and they’re certainly more aware of you so for him to jump right in there is impressive.”

Kirkpatrick admitted he felt some pressure being one of the only freshmen on the team but quickly hit his stride.

After a standout freshman season, Kirkpatrick said he knew he had a realistic chance of taking his game to the collegiate level. However, his sophomore season was wiped out by the pandemic.

It marked the longest stretch of time Kirkpatrick went without playing baseball but he stepped back on a diamond over the summer with Release baseball but struggled during that time.

“Baseball is such a mental game,” he said. “I have extremely high standards for myself. When you realize you’re not performing to your standards that you have set for yourself it takes something out of you. My mental toughness was just not where it needed to be and I just got too down on myself and just did not have the confidence.”

After signing his letter of intent, all there is left to do is return back to Lenny May Field for one more year and close out his high school career on a high note.

“I can’t wait to watch him play,” said Sweeney. “I look forward to try and get him to the next level. I think he’s going to have a better year this year than he’s ever had.”

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