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Newest "DK" enjoying first year in coaching

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Former East Carolina pitcher Davis Kirkpatrick celebrates a strikeout during the 2018 NCAA Greenville Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

WINTERVILLE — Davis Kirkpatrick doesn’t like for his Brunswick Community College pitchers to call him Davis or Coach Kirkpatrick.

Like his father, it simply is “DK.”

Kirkpatrick is in his first season as pitching coach for Brunswick Community College, a gig he secured merely a few weeks after throwing his final pitch for East Carolina last June, in part because of former Pirate infielder Hunter Allen’s departure from Brunswick’s staff to the volunteer coaching position at ECU for this season.

“It has been a lot of fun and has helped me not miss the game as much,” Kirkpatrick said after the Dolphins’ first win on Friday at the Region X/Southeast District Tournament being held at Pitt Community College. “I still wish I could be out there, of course, but I got into this because I want to help guys from junior college baseball go on and play, and make them better every day and help them however I can.”

As Kirkpatrick was preparing for his Greenville exit last summer, it was his father, Donnie Kirkpatrick, who later in 2018 was preparing his move back go Greenville.

Donnie is in his first year as the offensive coordinator for ECU football. He had been a receivers coach and recruiting coordinator for the Pirates from 2005 to 2015, under Skip Holtz and Ruffin McNeill, and was on Mike Houston’s staff at James Madison when Houston was hired by ECU in December and then brought Kirkpatrick and many other JMU staffers with him to East Carolina.

Davis and Donnie both being coaches now has only strengthened their bond.

“He gets a lot of questions,” Davis said. “I always asked him a lot of questions when I was growing up, but now I get to ask questions like, ‘What would you tell this guy here?’ or, ‘Am I pushing the right buttons?’

“He’s always been my hero. … He probably does think that I do call him more now.”

Brunswick CC won the Region X regular season championship with a 25-4 record and began 3-0 at the postseason tourney at PCC, but Pasco-Hernando (Fla.) State College advanced through the losers’ bracket and beat Brunswick on Tuesday to automatically qualify from the district for the NJCAA Division II World Series field.

Marty Gantt also is a first-year assistant coach at Brunswick, and the other assistant is Southbridge, Mass., native Pete Hughes.

“Davis is really good with with our (pitching) staff, doing a great job with them,” longtime Brunswick head coach Robbie Allen said of Kirkpatrick, a 2013 D.H. Conley High School graduate. “It was a blessing because when I lost Hunter, my son, we picked him up and that really saved everything. I would have been the pitching coach, and that wouldn’t have been a good thing.”

Kirkpatrick was a football and baseball standout at Conley before a solid debut collegiate season in 2014, but his next few years with the Pirates were derailed after Tommy John surgery. The right-hander then re-emerged as a reliever and fifth-year senior a season ago, leading ECU with a 0.95 ERA in 29 appearances.

He said a sticking point for Pirate coaches when he was a player was to try to keep the game moving at a slow pace, mentally, while on the mound. That is a lesson that has come even more into focus in Kirkpatrick’s first season as a coach, and it is something he now relays to his Dolphin pitchers.

“There is a little more thinking, but overall, I just have a lot of knowledge from my coaches at ECU and growing up,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with a group of guys here who are talented. It’s been easy when they do their job. It’s been fun, and that’s usually easy to say when you are winning.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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