SHS’ Van Kirk signs with NE Texas

Sherman senior Taylor Van Kirk made the most of last year’s softball playoff game at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant.

The Lady Bearcats lost the bi-district contest to Marshall, 1-0, but the coaches there were impressed enough with Van Kirk that they subsequently gave her a scholarship offer.

“I e-mailed the coaches ahead of time and told them I would be there and was interested,” Van Kirk said. “I went there and I loved the campus and loved the field. I met the assistant coach and she’s a really great person, and I connected with her. That’s what made my decision.”

Van Kirk signed a letter of intent with the Eagles on Wednesday and will play both catcher and third base collegiately.

“The coaches got to see her, and they were excited to hear that she was just a junior and would be graduating (the following) year,” Lady Cats head coach Larry Zachary said. “They saw an opportunity to pick up what they felt like would be a good, versatile player for them. They need somebody who can play third and catch. When they play multiple games in a few days, it’s nice to have a catcher-third base combination. You don’t have to have just one person catching all the time.”

Primarily a catcher for the last three seasons at Sherman, Van Kirk will trade off with sophomore Taylor Bailiff this spring between the two positions.

A four-year starter for Sherman, Van Kirk was first-team all-District 13-4A at catcher in 2012 and was voted catcher of the year in 2011.

She’s also played travel ball extensively, spending this past year with the 18-under Dallas Tigers. Over the years, she’s played on teams that have qualified for national tournaments four times.

“I’ve done a lot of work in the past four years, and a lot more work my whole life,” Van Kirk said. “I’ve played year-round since I was 10, and I love it.”

Northeast Texas is a part of the Texas A&M University system, and Van Kirk said she has the option of transferring all of her credits to College Station if that’s where she decides to go after two years of junior college.

Van Kirk, who carries a 3.3 grade-point average, plans to major in education and get into coaching, with a minor in history. She’s been active in school as a varsity cheerleader, a former class vice president, and a member of the Student Council, Key Club, Sisters of Service and FCCLA.

On the diamond, Van Kirk had a strong junior season, leading the team in plate appearances and at-bats with two home runs, six doubles and 18 runs batted in. As a sophomore, she batted a sizzling .595 with a .615 on-base percentage and a .674 slugging percentage.

“Taylor is probably the best hitter I ever got to coach,” Zachary said. “She’s done some miraculous things. She’s had the highest batting average of any kid I’ve ever coached. She’s got power and a great on-base percentage. She’s got a good eye for the ball and swings the bat well. I think that’s what these coaches liked about her.”