Recent St. Vincent Pallotti High School graduate Corey Dirks was the start and the end to a successful high school battery combination.
OK, so Dirks couldn’t call his own pitches from behind the plate or toss a fastball to himself from the mound to the plate but he was exceptional at both positions, made his teammates better while doing both and had so much success at catcher and pitcher that Bethany College (W.Va.) coach Rich Carver recruited him for that dual role.
“It is going to be tough to replace a player like Corey Dirks,” Pallotti coach Pat Courtemache said via e-mail. “Every time he steps on the field he expects to win despite whoever we were playing. He is a fierce competitor and very relentless on the baseball diamond.
“I felt very confident that when Corey was on the mound, we were going to win the game and shut down the opposing team’s offense. I also felt the same way that when he was at catcher, he gave us the best chance to win as most teams elected to not run on him.”
Opponents probably didn’t like facing Dirks when he had a bat in his hands either. He finished with a career batting average of .350 with 89 hits, two home runs and 72 runs batted in. He knocked in 28 runs this past spring and had a team-high 11 sacrifice flies to earn All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association first team honors for the third consecutive year. Dirks helped lead the Panthers to the MIAA B Conference final, where they fell to Annapolis Area Christian School.
“I’ve never really been a power hitter so I never go to the plate thinking about hitting a home run,” said Dirks, who began his competitive career in a T-ball game on the south lawn of the White House. “When runners are on first and second, I try to move them over. If a runner is on third base, I try to get the ball to the right side. I just put the ball in play and make the infield and outfield make mistakes.”
Dirks was even better on the mound, going 23-10 with a 2.72 earned run average and 207 strikeouts for his career to place him second in school history in career wins. This past spring, Dirks went 8-1 with a 2.88 ERA and 67 strikeouts, including a five-hit shutout of Riverdale Baptist (35-5) and a no-hitter against Baltimore Friends School.
“Corey came in with us primarily as a catcher, but we transitioned him into a pitcher as well,” Courtemache said. “Corey has improved each year in every facet of his game. For the last two years in a row, Corey was our No. 1 pitcher, but also our No. 1 catcher as well.
“Coach Rick Carver has stated that Corey could play both pitcher and catcher for the Bison next year, that he is that good. Rarely do you ever find a college baseball coach say that he could play both positions at pitcher and catcher.”
Bethany compiled a 12-23 record this past season but Carver has amassed 367 wins during his 22 years at the NCAA Division III school. His teams have won four conference titles and finished in first place in the regular season standings eight times.
“I like catching but pitching has its rewards,” Dirks said. “You control the whole game if you’re pitching. You can rely on your team. When I’m catching, I’ve got the pitcher’s back. You have to block everything for your pitcher. [Either way] you stay in the game pretty much focused the whole time.”