Kline's career comes to an end
Pitcher is all-time leader in six categories for Millersville
CARY, N.C. -- Derek Kline will never wear a college baseball uniform again. His remarkable career at Millersville ended Wednesday afternoon under the blazing North Carolina sun as the Marauders fell 5-2 to Mount Olive in an elimination game at the NCAA Division II National Final.
The sting of the setback won’t fade anytime soon. It will take awhile for Kline to overcome the pain of defeat and realize how lucky he was to play at this level, not to mention the fact that his career ended in a place most players only dream about.
For the time being, though, reality bites as sixth-ranked Millersville (44-12) finished 1-2 at the tourney here at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, losing both games to Mount Olive (47-9), the No. 2 team in the country.
“It’s tough to lose, but I wouldn’t say we came up short at all,” Kline said. “To come to where we are now from where we started, hitting in places that weren’t suitable for rats, it’s unbelievable to have the season end here. The only thing better would have been to win it all. I have nothing bad to say about the experience.”
If you had said four years ago that Kline would have an opportunity to help catapult a team into contention for the national title, no one would have bought the statement. Kline spent his first season of college ball at Shippensburg on the dugout as a redshirt. The team cut him the following season and it appeared his dream of playing college baseball was finished.
“I didn’t agree with the decision, but I still wanted to play somewhere,” Kline said. “Everything happens for a reason and I came here and was given a chance. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.”
But as is often the case, one door usually opens when another closes, and for Kline, a door of opportunity was opened for him at Millersville. He walked right through it and hasn’t looked back.
Kline was the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division Rookie of the Year in 2008 and continued to play at a high level throughout his career. The first baseman is a two-time All-Atlantic Region selection and is the all-time leader at the school in at-bats, hits, RBIs, doubles, total bases and put-outs.
Kline said he was motivated by being cut and made it his mission to shine as a baseball player.
“I played with a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove to people who didn’t believe in me that I could play this game,” Kline said. “I knew how to play the game and I knew if I played up to my potential, everything else would fall into place.”
Jon Shehan has watched Kline develop into one of the better players in the country and talked about what Kline meant to Millersville during this special season and his career as well.
“It’s fair to say, and you could argue this, that he had the best season in Millersville history,” Shehan said. “He helped turn things around and has been a great player. He has worked hard and even tough it’s a long shot, I hope he gets a chance to play at the next level.”
Kline came into this game with 244 hits and added one more to that total against the Trojans. But after the Marauders went ahead 2-0 on a two-run single to the corner in left by Ryan McCormick in the sixth, they were never able to build on the momentum.
Millersville finished with nine hits, including two by McCormick. Kline had five at-bats in the game but struck out twice, including in his final at-bat of the game.
“They have a great pitching staff, probably one of the best in the nation, and we had a hard time getting hits off of them,” Kline said. “You have to take your hats off to them. They did a great job against us.”
Still, the ride has been one Kline will never forget. He will never forget the memories he made and the accomplishments he enjoyed along the way. Kline came into the game hitting .333 with 67 hits and 43 RBIs.
“To get here is a dream come true,” Kline said. “It’s an honor to be one of the best to have played here and I feel like myself and the other seniors did a great job of leading by example and raising the bar. The program is headed in the right direction.”