It appears the only thing that’s going to keep Kyle Bishop out of the Waterville Senior High School baseball team’s lineup is graduation. Since starting his first varsity game as a freshman in 2008, Bishop played in 80 consecutive games for the Purple Panthers.

“Our own iron man,” Waterville coach Don Sawyer said.

Bishop started out as a good player and became better each season, culminating in a senior season in which he was a finalist for the Dr. John Winkin Award, given annually to the top senior baseball player in the state.

“There’s a lot of kids out there who could’ve been in my position. There’s one on my team, Tim (Locke),” Bishop said. “It was an honor, because Mr. Winkin’s done a lot for the state of Maine and baseball.”

Bigger than his individual accomplishments, Bishop helped Waterville win back-to-back Class B state titles, the first baseball championships in the school’s history. Coming off a season in which he dominated at the plate and on the mound, Kyle Bishop is the Morning Sentinel Baseball Player of the Year. Bishop’s Waterville teammate, and Mt. Blue’s Jimmy Neal, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North Player of the Year were also considered.

Bishop’s stats are eye-popping. The left fielder/pitcher hit .576 this season, with 22 runs and 17 runs batted in. Of Bishop’s 38 hits, 11 were doubles. His on-base percentage was .654, and his slugging percentage was .773.

But maybe, Bishop is a better pitcher than he is a hitter. He was 7-0 with an earned run average of 0.34, allowing just two earned runs in 41 innings. Opponents hit just .200 off Bishop in 2011, and he struck out 49 while walking seven.

In his four years at Waterville, Bishop’s pitching record was 27-2, and he ended his high school career with 106 hits.

“He works hard on his game to be better every pitch he throws and every at bat he takes,” Sawyer said.

In the playoffs, Bishop was even better. He hit .643 with four runs scored and three runs batted in. On the mound, he was 2-0, didn’t allow an earned run, gave up eight hits, walked three and struck out 11 in 11 innings.

Unlike most of the other top pitchers in the state, Bishop doesn’t throw a curveball, and doesn’t have any interest in developing one. He dominates by spotting his fastball, throwing the occasional split-fingered fastball, and a nasty changeup.

“When I was growing up, my dad and other coaches didn’t want me throwing curveballs. They wanted to save my arm, and I thank them for that, because there’s a lot of kids around here now getting Tommy John surgery (to repair damaged elbow ligaments),” Bishop said. “I have a changeup and a split finger that worked extremely well. That’s all I needed. If you can keep the ball low, sometimes the changeup might be better than a curveball. You hang a curveball, leave it up…”

Bishop’s fastball routinely is in the mid-70s, and when a changeup comes in at 62, 63 miles per hour, from the same release, hitters are left flailing. In a 12-2 win over Old Town in the Eastern Maine quarterfinals, the changeup was Bishop’s dominant pitch.

“He had his changeup going real well. That was probably his bread and butter pitch. He was using the changeup to set up the fastball,” Old Town coach Dave Utterback said. “He had our guys kind of guessing a little bit. Most of the guys up our way are throwing curveball, fastball.”

Bishop didn’t alter his swing. Rather, his improvement came mentally. In the past, one bad at bat early in a game could stick with him the entire game. This year, he was able to shake it off and move on.

“I think in years past, I got frustrated easily, that might affect me later on in a couple at bats. This year, I just let everything rub off, and worried about the next thing,” Bishop said. “Just paying attention to detail and swinging at good pitches. You know, not many people are going to throw it by me, I believe. Take it to the opposite field on off speed (pitches) or wait for yours to rip. I was zoned in all year, I felt, and it really paid off in the end.”

Bishop reached base in each of his final eight plate appearances of the season, a run that spanned three games. Sawyer not only saw a smarter hitter, but a stronger one.

“A lot of balls he put in play, he just hit a little harder,” Sawyer said. “Line drives that were caught a year ago were 10 or 15 feet over their heads.”

Bishop grew up the son of a coach, Brad Bishop, who coached football at Lawrence when Kyle was younger and more recently was the football coach at Livermore Falls. Bishop watched his father coach, and he learned.

“You learn a lot, especially when you get older. How to approach things, how to be prepared, and really, how to work hard,” Bishop said. “Nothing for my brother (Cam, who recently completed his sophomore year at Bowdoin) or myself has been given to us easily. We’ve had to work hard. You can never be satisfied. If you want something, you have to go get it.”

Bishop played in the Maine East/West Senior All-Star Game, and for Maine against the top seniors from New Hampshire, throwing a scoreless inning against the Granite Staters. After playing in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl later this month, Bishop will head to Husson University, where he plans on playing football and baseball.

“I’m expecting to go up there, and in football or baseball, not start immediately. I think a lot of kids go up to school wherever, and feel like they need to play,” Bishop said. “I’ve been taught — and I’ve seen — you’ve got to wait it out, wait for your turn. I’ll just go up, work hard, and hopefully down the road, if not immediately, if I can get some playing time.”

Waterville’s iron man will bide his time. If he continues to work hard, he won’t have to wait too long.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

 


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