With each year on Lovejoy's baseball team, junior Kyle Branch's role at the plate has changed—from hitting in the bottom third of the order as a freshman, to table-setting out of the two-hole as a sophomore, and now batting third this season.
He's handled it all in stride while helping anchor the infield for one of the area's top teams in Class 5A.
Branch and the Leopards continued their postseason run on Thursday with an area-round series against Texarkana Texas. Lovejoy had its sights set on a return to the regional quarterfinals, which would mark the third consecutive year the program had gone at least three rounds deep in the playoffs.
Branch has been part of the Leopards' arsenal since the program's regional semifinal run in 2021, carving out a starting spot in the middle infield and thriving to the tune of district defensive player of the year honors last season as a sophomore.
The shortstop helped lead Lovejoy to a district championship this spring, batting .322 during 13-5A play with 11 runs scored, plus eight RBIs and seven stolen bases. Branch added two RBIs and two runs in the team's bi-district sweep of Crandall.
Branch is building off the foundation laid within his own family, as his older brother, Kolby, authored a decorated high school career of his own with the Leopards before making waves as a freshman at Baylor this year.
In this week's student-athlete profile, Branch discusses the influence of his older brother, adjusting to a new spot in the lineup, and another big year for Lovejoy baseball.
SLM: Having helped lead Lovejoy to another district championship, what has impressed you most with the team's level of play up to this point in the season?
KB: I think what has been most impressive is our overall talent that we’ve been able to harness out of everyone this year. We have a very senior-heavy team, and the amount of players we have been able to use effectively is very impressive.
Not only do they get in the game, but when they do they produce, whether that’s on the mound, in the field or at the plate. I think Aidan Smith has done a great job in his role, in the way it’s obvious that he's a leader and never fails to pick his teammates up.
SLM: You were voted as your district's defensive MVP last season. What has gone into your work in that area over the years and how have you developed that aspect of your game as an infielder?
KB: My fielding has not always been at the level it’s gotten to, and it definitely took a lot of time and work to develop that aspect of my game. It’s been from as regular as just going to the field to field ground-balls with my dad and little brother Carson, to entire workouts with very high-level infielders.
All that said, Tim Dulin and Chris Godwin, my coaches in the summer, have focused very heavily on my glove, because they saw the potential I had. I credit a lot of my success to those guys, from not only a fundamentals standpoint, but also a mindset standpoint and about always being locked in every pitch, knowing that whatever ball is hit at you and then what to do with it.
SLM: What was it like getting to play on the same team as your older brother last season, and what kind of impact has he had on you?
KB: Kolby is an incredible brother, leader and one heck of a baseball player. He’s starting to gain national attention because of the season he’s having at Baylor right now, but it’s so cool to me to see him be the same guy as he was when he left.
He is never too big to hang out with his little brothers, old teammates or really anyone, for that matter. He goes about his business and works incredibly hard, and has earned everything that he is now receiving.
He’s been a role model for me to look up to on and off the field, and my dad has poured so much into each of us, and I think we both try to model after him and how he works.
SLM: You hit second in the order for a lot of your sophomore year. In hitting third this year, do you approach that role in the lineup with a different mentality or strategy, or does your approach at the plate stay the same regardless?
KB: Hitting third has been a very different situation for me this year, as I’m seeing 10 times more off-speed stuff than ever before. It has been an adjustment in my plan at the plate, knowing that it will eventually make me a more complete hitter in the end being able to hit whatever guys throw me, in whatever count.
My approach is still to drive the ball gap to gap and ultimately produce for my team. Guy on third, get him in immediately. As coach (Ryan) Gros would say, “Ambush!”
SLM: How long have you been playing baseball, and what gravitated you to the sport?
KB: Baseball was my first love in my life, and I’ve been playing ever since I could remember having a mouth to talk and feet to walk. I'd always bring a tennis ball to my brother's games and play wall ball until I was worn out—the good ole days.
SLM: Who have been some of the biggest influences on your growth as a baseball player?
KB: Like I mentioned earlier, my summer baseball coaches, all of them—Tim Dulin, Chris Godwin, Steve Watson, B-Mac and so many more. Also, coach Gros, ever since arriving to Lovejoy, has developed my mindset and discipline both on and off the field.
He leads by example, getting to the school before anyone—and I mean anyone—else does and gets a workout before anybody else starts. He’s very humble and never takes credit for any of his success. This inspires me to do the same and walk in that manner as well on the field.
SLM: Is there an athlete you look up to?
KB: I look up to Tim Tebow for his character and the way he leads his team with such obedience to God. No matter what, his faith remained his number one, regardless of his performance on the baseball or football field.
I would also say Bobby Witt, Jr. is my favorite player right now, knowing that we both grew up around the same DFW area and he was once committed to play ball at Oklahoma. He inspires and fuels my dream to play in the MLB by showing me that it is possible to make it there, and to believe in myself on the field, as he plays with such high confidence.
SLM: When not playing baseball, what are your favorite ways to spend your downtime?
KB: Some of my favorite ways to spend my outside time would be in the great outdoors. The lord has blessed me with buddies all over the place, and we love to spend time working out, eating Popeye's, fishing and just doing anything and everything that nature enables us to.
I am blessed with a small group at church where I meet every Wednesday, and I would consider them some of my best friends, and they always hold me accountable in my faith and in my walk with Jesus Christ.
This offseason, I plan on being five places: the weight room, the cages, the field, at home and in the duck slew. There’s nothing better than going to shoot some mallards with your best friends on a cold morning in Texas.
Get Allen American news in your inbox!
Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.
Error! There was an error processing your request.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.