Junior first baseman proves to be hitting powerhouse

North Alabama junior first baseman Kyle Hubbuch looks on as he hits one of his four home runs this season against Bellarmine Feb. 12 at Mike Lane Field. Hubbuch leads the Lions in hits, runs, RBIs and home runs through 10 games this season.

Kyle Hubbuch is off to a hot start in his third season with the North Alabama baseball team. In his first nine games of the season, Hubbuch is posting a batting average of .447 and leads the team with 17 hits, 14 RBIs and four home runs.  

The junior first baseman has excelled on the field since arriving at UNA, but he has also made progress on his goals off the field. Hubbuch says the “student” part of “student athlete” is a high priority for him.

“I’m majoring in secondary education with a focus in social science,” Hubbuch said. “I want to be a teacher and a coach at the high school level unless I get the opportunity to coach at the college level — then I would probably take that chance.”

While Hubbuch’s statistics suggest otherwise, baseball was not the sport Hubbuch received the most scholarship offers to play in college.

“I had more college offers for bowling than I did for baseball, honestly,” he said. “But I knew since I was a little boy that I wanted to play baseball in college and beyond if I can, so the choice was pretty easy for me.”

UNA head coach Mike Keehn said he is also well aware of Hubbuch’s skills as a bowler.

“His first year, we had a preseason get together as a team, and everyone bowled and it was a good opportunity for him,” Keehn said. “In the long term of me coaching here, he’s the first one I’ve ever had that was a baseball and bowling athlete.”

The team goes bowling from time to time, but because of his skills on the lanes Hubbuch does not always get the invite.

Hubbuch said the strides he has made between his first games as a freshman to now as a three-year starter are beyond what he thought they would be.

“As a freshman, I was kind of young and raw and just tried to force a lot of stuff because it was a lot different for me,” Hubbuch said. “The speed of the game picked up a lot from high school to college, but now playing summer ball has helped a lot, and being able to relax and take what the game gives you has been the big difference this year.”

Keehn said he has also noticed the improvements Hubbuch has made since coming to UNA.

He’s got the talent and awareness to get the consistent hits we need, he said.

“I think that’s one of the things he’s doing so far but when he gets his pitch he’s making solid contact and, that’s one of the things we talked about is to continue to hit it hard somewhere, because he’s strong enough and the ball carries well enough that if he does that it’s going to give him more opportunities for hits and extra-base hits.”

Assistant baseball coach Nick McGregor said he also felt good about Hubbuch’s progress over the last couple of years.

“I think his maturity level has gone up, and he has kind of understood how we do things here and how tough our conference is,” he said. “I think he’s really jumped into a leadership role this year, and he’s done a really good job for us.”

Hubbuch and the rest of the Lions will be back in action Feb. 25-26 in the Gulf South Conference home opener versus Shorter at Mike Lane Field.