Spotlight slugger: Southland’s Kirtz is having a blast while excelling on the field

Published 6:26 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

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ADAMS – If you’ve been to a sporting event in Southland in the past year or so, it’s hard to miss junior Travis Kirtz.

Kirtz, a standout slugger and pitcher for the Rebels this spring, dons a Tom Selleck like mustache, sports a gold chain and he even had his own cheering section that wore t-shirts of him holding buttered pancakes in front of a cornfield during football season last fall.

The pancakes were a reference to the pancake blocks that Kirtz delivered for the Rebel football team.

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“It was just a joke at first, but one of my friends made a shirt out of it,” Kirtz said. “It was really fun. I have great friends and great support here and it’s fun to be around all of the guys playing baseball this season.”

Kirtz’s swing is no joke as he is hitting .400 with three doubles. He also has 3-0 pitching record with an ERA of 1.80. Southland head coach Scott Koenigs pointed out Kirtz’s work ethic and his willingness to adjust his swing to the opposing pitcher as the key reasons for his success.

“One thing I really like about Travis is that he works really hard and he works year round,” Koenigs said. “He’s become a true leader and he’s just a really hard out. He really listens and he hits gap to gap and he can actually go the other way when the pitch is outside. He really covers the plate and he hits the ball hard all over.”

While Kirtz plays football, basketball and baseball for the Rebels, he is most home on the diamond. He works on his game nearly year round and he has spent time in Rochester working with former Rochester Century standout and Minor Leaguer Mitch Brown.

“It’s come somewhat natural to me and it’s fun to play. When I was younger I always played catch with my grandpa. He was into it and he really got me into it,” Kirtz said. “The weight room is a bigger part of it than most people think. It helps with your power and your endurance.”

Kirtz has consistent plate discipline as he rarely strikes out and often makes contact, no matter how fast the speed of the opposing pitcher.

“You’ve just got to read it, focus, get an eye on it and have a quick bat,” Kirtz said. 

With just one senior in the regular lineup, Kirtz’s leadership has been crucial for the Rebels.

“He’s a really good kid and everybody likes him,” Koenigs said of Kirtz. “He doesn’t say a whole lot, but he’s got a great sense of humor and he can lighten up the crowd pretty quick. He kind of leads by example. He’s one of those kids you really like because he’s not cocky at all.”

Southland (9-2 overall) has a week remaining in the regular season before the Rebels begin postseason play. Southland took second in Section 1A last season and the Rebels finished third in the Section 1A tournament in 2021.

“We’ve got some good pitchers coming up who will all be back next year and we’re doing pretty well this year,” Kirtz said. “We’re really focused on trying to get back to state. We’re trying to start a new tradition, a new culture and a new era. We’ve just got to get in that habit of getting that work ethic back.”

Koenigs, a Southland grad himself, gave up the head coaching job with the Riverland Community College baseball team after leading them to the NJCAA Division III World Series to coach the Rebels and he’s hoping the players he currently has can repeat the success of Southland teams of the past.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” Koenigs said. “We’re building in a tough section and I think we’re getting there. My plan was to bring Southland back to the heydays of Brian Voigt, Kody Retterath and Cody Kirkpartrick.”