ROCK HILL, S.C. – The South Atlantic Conference announced its 2017 baseball Scholar Athlete Wednesday afternoon as senior Paul Kirby added to his resume becoming the fifth student-athlete from Carson-Newman to pick up the plaudit.
The achievement was first handed out in 1992 as the Eagles have now claimed seven of the 26 honors. With the seven selections, C-N joins Tusculum for the most individuals tabbed Scholar Athlete on the diamond.
The Goodlettsville, Tenn. is the first player from coach Tom Griffin's group to gather in the award since Derek Long was picked in 2010. Deron Walraven was the first person from Carson-Newman to earn the distinction winning in 1996 and 1997. Ben Deaton went back-to-back in in 1999 and 2000 while Brandon Burchfield solidified the spot in 2007.
This honor goes along with a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District 3 team selection and the SAC's inaugural winner of the Elite 18 award given to a student-athlete for outstanding work not only in the field of competition, but also in the classroom around the community. Kirby, a 4.0 student, is a pre-med major studying biology and health professions.
Since arriving on Carson-Newman's campus in the fall of 2015, the first baseman has been an Eagle Scholar every semester thus far into her C-N career. A student-athlete who meets or surpasses a GPA of 3.25 is recognized by the University as an Eagle Scholar and is given a patch to wear on their uniform during competition.
The senior won the SAC and Tennessee Sportswriters' Association's Player of the Week laurels on April 18 going 6-for-15, a .400 batting average, at the plate with three home runs, 12 RBIs while scoring six times in four games. He hit .339 with nine home runs and 53 RBIs. On the season, Kirby was sixth in the league in runs knocked in with 52, seventh in slugging percentage at .629, eighth in total bases with 112 and ninth in doubles with 16.
From Feb. 8 to March 17, the first baseman hit safely in a career-long 16 straight games where he hit .410 with three bombs, 15 RBIs, 20 runs scored with seven doubles and a triple. It marks the longest hitting streak by any Eagle player in 2017.
During his two seasons in the Orange and Blue, Kirby posted a .310 batting average with 15 long balls, 90 RBIs and 113 knocks. The transfer committed just five errors in 2016-17 registering a .994 fielding percentage.
On top of his efforts in the classroom and between the lines, the first baseman volunteered for the Goodlettsville all-star team throwing batting practice for a unit that went to the World Series in 2013 and 2016. He spent time as a church camp leader at Hollow Baptist Church, volunteering at the Life Care Center in Jefferson City and helped at the Appalachian Outreach sorting through donations. Kirby helped the Martin Luther King Highway clean up in Columbia, Tenn. and has spent time reading to middle school students near Mossy Creek.
Each SAC Scholar Athlete's credentials are based on academics, athletics, service and leadership and the winners are selected by the league's Faculty Athletic Representatives Committee.
In two seasons in the Orange and Blue, Kirby helped the club to a 60-45 that included a second-place finish in the 2017 SAC Championships as the right-handed hitter led all players with 10 runs batted in.
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