Kemp catches fire with Pirates

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, May 8, 2008

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Sure, there can be some anonymity when you’re behind a mask. But every college baseball fan in the nation must know East Carolina catcher Corey Kemp by now.
The affable, well-spoken Kemp has been shining all season for the No. 25 Pirates (36-13, 11-7), who welcome Tulane (32-15-1, 10-6-1) into town this weekend for a key Conference USA series.
A co-captain for the Pirates, Kemp has been swinging a hot stick all season. He currently leads the Pirates with 14 home runs, 60 RBIs and a .379 batting average.
Kemp’s play has certainly put him in the spotlight. The 6-0, 241-pound senior, who wears No. 35, has been named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List, an award given annually to the top Division I collegiate catcher. He was also named to the official 50-man watch list for the 2008 Dick Howser Trophy, given to the nation's top collegiate baseball player.
Though his name is now mentioned in the same breath as some of this year’s other college baseball greats, Kemp doesn’t let that affect his game.
Good things have certainly happened all season long for Kemp, who has scored 51 runs and added 10 doubles to his season totals.
Just mention Kemp’s name and ECU head coach Billy Godwin flashes a huge smile.
Kemp, who was born in Peoria, Ill., and grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan, has worked hard to improve his game. The Franklin, Tenn., native hit .267 with five home runs and 41 RBIs last year.
While carrying a big stick, Kemp has also been solid behind the plate. The communications major, who also plays some third base for the Pirates, has a .973 fielding percentage. Kemp has thrown out 17 would-be base stealers.
The ECU catcher came up with a defensive gem during a doubleheader sweep of UAB on Saturday. On a routine grounder and with a runner at first, the Pirates looked to turn a double play. The ball got away from the ECU first baseman, but Kemp hustled down the line and grabbed the ball by his bare hand, which had ricocheted off a railing, and tagged out the runner at first.
Kemp, who previously played at Young Harris College, is gearing up for a key C-USA series with the Green Wave. He’ll be one of six seniors honored on Saturday.
Helping him celebrate will be his parents, Rick Kemp and Catherine Kemp.
Kemp would love to see his parents cheering him on for at least a few more weeks.
While Kemp is hoping the Pirates can reach Omaha, he’s not ready for his baseball career to come to an end there. A 45th round pick during of the 2004 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kemp would love to hear his name get called again.
Kemp is just hoping to catch a break. The way he’s playing, the odds are certainly in the catcher’s favor.