Kyle Kemp is returning to the state where his baseball career began.
After spending four years at Lipscomb, the right-handed pitcher announced via Instagram Monday evening that he will finish his career at UCF as a graduate transfer.
“The UCF coaching staff has the same values as they do at Lipscomb,” Kemp said. “They really love their players. I’ll also be two-and-a-half hours away from home instead of 12-and-a-half, so that really helps me.”
The Port Charlotte, Florida, native redshirted during the 2015 season while rehabbing his throwing elbow after having Tommy John surgery. He then pitched for the Bisons from 2016-18 and was honored with the team’s seniors in an on-field ceremony in May.
Kemp informed the Lipscomb coaching staff before the season began that he intended to finish his eligibility elsewhere.
“I tried to take the most appropriate way of doing it,” Kemp said. “I told (the coaches) that my grad school option at Lipscomb was a basic MBA or nothing, in terms of business. I wanted to go to a school that offered an MBA with a sports management concentration.”
Kemp is currently playing for the Hyannis (Mass.) Harbor Hawks of the prestigious Cape Cod League. He touts a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings pitched for the Hawks, who are currently in second place in the West Division with a 16-10-2 record.
At age 22, he is one of the Hawks’ oldest players and sees himself as a team leader. Kemp also pitched for the Cotuit Kettleers in his first Cape Cod stint in 2017.
“Being a leader in a league full of guys that are going to hear their name called very early (in the MLB Draft) next year is a really cool opportunity for me,” Kemp said. “You get to see what baseball’s really about and who can pitch in front of nobody (besides scouts) at a mediocre high school field. That’s what makes the Cape special.”
He originally committed to Florida his freshman year of high school but had to look elsewhere after tearing his UCL in June 2013, just before he was set to pitch in the Perfect Game All-American Classic. Kemp didn’t receive a proper diagnosis until the following February, and he recovered from Tommy John surgery instead of pitching his senior year at Port Charlotte High School.
“My doctor in Port Charlotte mostly worked with senior citizens since it’s a retirement community,” Kemp said. “He really didn’t know how to deal with athletes. He told me that I had a sprain and that the ligament would heal itself.”
After making a full recovery and arriving on campus in August 2014, Kemp participated in fall practice but tore his UCL again. That required a second Tommy John surgery in March 2015 and sidelined him for another year.
By the time he appeared in his first college game in March 2016, it had been nearly three years since he had thrown against live batters. He went on to toss 38.2 innings in 2016 and 37.2 in 2017 but finished with an ERA over five in both seasons.
The 6-foot-3, 216-pound hurler had his best statistical season at Lipscomb this year, when he appeared in 20 games and finished with a 4.11 ERA. He also had 59 strikeouts and 36 walks in 50 innings pitched.
“I owe pretty much everything to coach (James) Ogden and coach (Jeff) Forehand for believing in me and making me feel like a part of their family every day,” Kemp said. “They honored my scholarship in (2016) and believed that I would make a comeback.”
Kemp was not selected in this year’s MLB Amateur Draft, but he hopes his final season at UCF will show scouts that he is worth a selection.
He plans to do so by taking on the closer role with the Knights. He had seven career saves with the Bisons and helped the team defeat Michigan with a three-inning save on March 11.
“The velocity is back, if not a little bit more than it was (before the injury),” Kemp said. “Now I need to focus on keeping (the speed) up every outing.
“When I talked to UCF, the main idea was to be a closer. I love the pressure and the atmosphere of the game when it’s all on the line. That’s where I excel.”
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