MOREHEAD CITY---Kurt Lipscomb finished out his Morehead City Marlins career the way he never expected, yet the final outcome came as little surprise.
The Faulkner University product entered in the 9th inning of a 5-4 game last Friday night against the Wilmington Sharks striking out all three batters he faced, eventually earning his first career save in a Morehead City Marlins uniform. As the expression goes, time flies when you're having fun. For Lipscomb, that mantra lives out daily through jovial and arguably rather hysterical interactions with his friends and teammates.
"Kurt is a great dude man, he's really cool," said Tyler Gunnin. "He's a country boy, who enjoys life and it has been great being his roommate."
Lipscomb approaches the game with a serious demeanor, although that would be tough to identify with given the way he interacts on and off the field. That transition between pitcher and personality is what has made him so comfortable, both in his ability to pitch but also in returning to Morehead City again and again.
"It's pretty shocking because it feels just like yesterday I was here for the first time," Lipscomb says, shortly before his final outing against Wilmington.
That opening outing came all the way back on June 25, 2013, a 2-1 win over the same Wilmington Sharks. Lipscomb was very effective, foreshadowing the rest of his Coastal Plain League career you could say, allowing one run on two hits while striking out four in six innings of work. In fact, Lipscomb finished that first season with a 3-1 record, posting a 5.00 overall ERA in five starts. But from there, the real story behind Kurt Lipscomb, the jovial natured, 6-foot-2 right hander from Anniston, Alabama became to manifest around Morehead City including for those who just met him this summer.
"Kurt serious is just as good as Kurt funny and that's what makes him great," Marlins current pitching coach Danny Higginbotham notes.
Turnover is very common in summer collegiate baseball, especially when you factor in the change in coaching and front-office staff that can transpire. Lipscomb, though, was almost as noticeable around Big Rock Stadium over the years as Finn the Marlin. "It was definitely a lot different," Lipscomb said referring to his first year. "It was the first time I had really been away from home. But that next year (regarding 2014) it was much better and this year it felt like my home."
Following another solid year at Faulkner University, Lipscomb returned as one of the main starters in the Marlins rotation earning himself a team-high 37 innings of work. While the team started just 1-17 overall, Lipscomb got hot right as the team began to turn things around. His first win came on June 24, and the Marlins kick started an incredible stretch winning 16 of their next 21 games. Among the many numbers worth noting from that season, Lipscomb recorded the most wins (4) of any pitcher on the staff. The team may not have performed up to his standards, but every start held equal weight regardless of when it fell on the schedule.
"To me, if I step on the mound it is game time," Lipscomb proclaims. "I'm gonna treat every game for real, but still have fun."
After pitching 56 innings on a staff that reached the NAIA World Series this past Spring, Lipscomb wanted a chance to throw as many innings as possible knowing full well that a chance to play at the next level could be on the line. It was interesting, however, because the decision to return for a third season in Morehead City wasn't even much of an option for the long-time Marlin.
"I thought about trying to play in other leagues but then I thought of the host families I've had, how supportive they have been, and I just had to come back."
Lipscomb finished out this season with a 6.00 ERA in 30 innings of work, but ended the year on a strong note. Including that final save, Lipscomb recorded 5.1 innings of scoreless work to finish out the year as a back-end of the bullpen arm, an intriguing role that came into the equation midway through the season.
"He earned the opportunity," said pitching coach Higginbotham. "It's not something we do for all guys, but (for) how great he has been for this team and this organization, we've given him a chance to try different roles for the summer."
Not only did Lipscomb make a solid impact on the current coaching staff, the fun-loving pitcher kept things very entertaining for his teammates. The 23-year-old has plenty of experience at the collegiate level, but appreciates teaching more by example as opposed to his on-field acumen. But for those who see it first hand, the impact Lipscomb has on the game is rather noticeable.
Eduardo Castro (Missouri State), the man who caught Lipscomb multiple times over the last two seasons, has fully enjoyed the experience working with the Faulkner product. Castro noted that "he fears no one out there" and that "he's great at pounding the zone," two components that have made Lipscomb a well-known and trusted commodity. Now that's unless his lingering fear of snakes enters the equation, as players have joked that Kurt is drastically afraid of the slithering creatures.
But in all seriousness, which is rare from the 6-foot-2 right hander, Lipscomb knows exactly when to relax and focus on the game. For that, he's thankful for the last three years at Big Rock Stadium; a place that will always feel like home.
When asked about his legacy, Kurt was rather subdued. "It's a good question, but I hope it is a good one," he commented. But that legacy seems rather etched in stone to those who worked with Lipscomb here in Morehead City. As he returns home to Alabama before enrolling in Faulkner for his final season, the long-time Marlin has the full support of the organization he's called home for three years, exactly half the time Morehead City has welcomed CPL Baseball.
"I think he's had a huge impact," Higginbotham said, before adding, "Maybe not on the scorebook (per say) but on the bus, in the clubhouse and with the team. Everyone likes him. He's been a real honor to have."
Written By: Evan Budrovich, Director of Broadcasting
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