Kurtis Voytell’s first year as an active member of the Towson University baseball team was bittersweet to say the least.
After rewriting the record books at Potomac State Community College (W.Va.) for two years before taking a redshirt season in 2011, Voytell battled his way into the lineup on several occasions only to suffer one injury setback after another.
He suffered a knee injury during a game against Hofstra and still wears a knee brace this summer, as he plays for the Gaithersburg Giants Blue in the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League.
“They said I sprained my MCL,” Voytell said. “I was hurt a lot and I was fighting for a spot. Toward the end of my season, I finally earned my spot and that’s when I started getting hurt. I’d play for two weeks and then I’d be out a week with an injury. I pulled my hamstring … and I pretty much battled that all year. It was a kind of up-and-down season.”
Making his plight even tougher to swallow was how well Voytell played when he was able to take the field, namely, a .350 batting average (21 for 60) with 12 runs, five doubles, a home run and six runs batted in in 22 games.
“I did really well when I was in,” said Voytell, whose Towson Tigers went 27-31 overall and 15-15 in the Colonial Athletic Association. “I saw the ball really well. Whenever I was in, I got timely hits. I thought I had a pretty good year this year. It was very frustrating. Just knowing that I could hit and I was helping my team out and then I’d get hurt and I was on the bench and there was nothing I could do but cheer them on.
“I’d get a pinch hit every once in a while and try to help out that but I was kind of useless during some points in the season.”
Giants coach Jeff Rabberman said lingering effects of that knee injury sidelined the first baseman-designated hitter for parts of the summer as well but Voytell’s return had helped spark a seven-game win streak. Gaithersburg was 19-9 through Monday and tied for second place in the MCBL.
“He’s a great baseball player and a better kid,” said Rabberman, who is in his third year coaching Voytell. “He gives 100 percent every time he comes out and he’s pretty darn good as well.”
In 12 games, through Thursday, Voytell was batting .316 (13 for 38) with 14 runs batted in, second on the team to clean-up hitter Brandon Grove, who was leading the Giants with 27 RBI.
“He’s an RBI guy,” Rabberman said. “He had some knee issues at the beginning of the year and took a week off and came back and we won seven in a row. Other guys are playing well, but to have him back in the lineup hitting [third] and Grove right behind him, it’s tough [for opposing pitchers]. He’s kind of the catalyst for everything we do.”
Producing at the plate is nothing new for Voytell, who had a career-best 140 hits in his two seasons at Potomac State. He also left the highly-successful junior college program ranked second in career doubles (34) and runs (114).
As a sophomore in 2010 at Potomac State, he earned All-America and Region XX honors while batting .450 with 68 hits, 19 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 48 RBI. Voytell hopes to replicate that success in what will be his final college campaign next spring.
“I think I kind of earned my spot at first base this coming year,” he said. “I think I just have to continue to go into the fall, hitting and hitting and hitting. I have to come in shape. I’ve been working out a lot. I think I’ve dropped eight pounds this summer. I think first base will be mine.
“I’m extremely excited because we had a great year last year. We were a really young team and we won a lot of teams in conference and made it to the CAA tournament. I think this is going to continue to next year.”
Towson coach Mike Gottlieb said he hopes Voytell contributes heavily to the team’s continued rise as the starting first baseman.
“We’re hoping he will be our first baseman so I can move the kid at first base to the outfield,” Gottlieb said. “I think the power can come. He’s a coachable kid and he probably needs to make some adjustments and he has. When he came in originally, he was too pull-conscience.
“Now, he has a better comprehension of hitting to the whole field. Down in Elon, he hit a double to right center. It one hopped the fence. As he was rounding first base, he popped his hamstring. It was probably the most impressive ball he hit all year. Unfortunately, it was the one that made him come out of the lineup.”