'Culture builder': Drew Kitchens brings hard working mentality to DWU baseball after transferring from USF
The 5-foot-6 sophomore’s energy and effort has been vital to the Tigers this season and will be in the years to come.
MITCHELL — Mitchell High School graduate and former University of Sioux Falls second baseman Drew Kitchens elected to transfer back home last winter to continue his college sports career.
Now, Kitchens' has an impactful presence within the Dakota Wesleyan baseball program
Leading with effort and continuously having a positive attitude, Kitchens went from struggling to find consistent playing time with the Cougars to starting at second base for DWU and batting ninth in the order for the entirety of the 2021-22 season for the Tigers. Playing in 35 of 39 games thus far, Kitchens is top-five on the team in hits (29), runs scored (21), and stolen bases (7), along with 14 RBIs.
After the three-sport athlete graduated from MHS in 2019, he narrowed his two options for college baseball to Dakota Wesleyan and USF. Now that he’s spent two seasons with the Cougars and nearly one complete season with DWU — both under coach Charlie Dubanoski, who became the Tigers' coach this season after previously serving as a full-time assistant at USF — Dubanoski said Kitchens is a guy you would want on your team any day of the week.
“Drew’s a kid that stands out right away with his effort, his energy and his love and passion for the game,” Dubanoski said. “Not only is he a guy that plays hard every day for you, but he’s a culture builder. He’s the type of kid that you want to be a part of your program.”
Dubanoski was hired to be the full-time assistant coach at USF in 2016, working as an important cog in the recruiting process and development of young talent. He helped convince Kitchens to come to USF in 2019, and that was only the beginning of their relationship.
After only appearing in 17 of the 55 games over the course of two seasons with USF, Kitchens realized it was time for a change, and with Dubanoski headed to DWU, what better destination than coming back home to play for a coach that believes in you.
“(Charlie) was really the reason I wanted to transfer,” Kitchens said. “Having more opportunities to play, I thought I could bring a hard-working mentality to the team and I felt if the team saw my passion, others would buy into that and it would show within our group. So far, it's gotten to quite a few people.”
This season, Kitchens has also shown his value on the defensive end with the team’s second-most assists at 59. Combining that with a batting average of .274 and an on-base percentage of .403, Kitchens has earned a slot in the Tigers lineup for the foreseeable future.
“He’s talented enough to be an every day player, and I think that’s exactly what he wanted when he came here,” Dubanoski said. “He just wanted more of an opportunity to play and show what he can do, and his intangibles really make him great. He competes every time at the plate, he finds ways to get on base for us, he steals bases and causes havoc on the base paths. As he continues to become more confident, I think he’ll be a vocal leader in the years to come as well.”
As DWU prepares to play its final four games for the regular season, taking on Great Plains Athletic Conference opponent Jamestown in two doubleheaders Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30, Dakota Wesleyan is only one game out of being tied for eighth in the GPAC standings with Northwestern and Dordt.
Even though the Tigers have lost 12 of their 18 games in the month of April, Kitchens said he believes the team has enough to put together a win streak and make the GPAC tournament for the first time since 2019.
“If we just stay solid defensively and stay relaxed at the plate, we will be in every game and give ourselves a chance to make it happen,” Kitchens said. “Our staff has to continue to pound the zone as well, but I think we have a good shot down the final stretch of the season.”