Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Kinney Produces Wins for Missionary Baseball

With a 12-18 overall record and a 7-13 league record, the Whitman varsity baseball team is having one of its best seasons in recent memory. This could be due to a higher work ethic on and off the field, an improved emphasis on practice or an overall heightened sense of confidence. If one person can be credited with bringing changes to Whitman baseball, it’s Interim Head Coach Sean Kinney.

After a disappointing season last year, it was clear that the team would need a new coach. But few were sure whom––and even fewer had any idea what––to expect in 2013. Fortunately, the appointed interim coach Kinney knew the program well enough to understand the necessary changes, and so far  his knowledge has paid off.

The position of an interim head coach isn’t technically permanent, and depends on how the season goes. As tough as that alone is, Kinney also took over a team that had amassed only 10 total wins over two seasons. He has led the team to more wins than that in less than one season.

“This has absolutely been a rewarding experience. The members of this team make that a reality every day. Each has [his] individual strengths and personalities, and I believe that provides an incredible environment for learning while enjoying a sport that you love,” said Kinney of his first head coaching season at Whitman.

Players noticed a stark change when Kinney assumed his new role.

“He’s definitely set a no-nonsense tone. No time is wasted messing around or going through the motions. From start to finish, it’s grind, grind, grind,” said senior Chris Andrews.

That hard work has shown in the team’s ability to carry early leads late into games and ultimately come away with wins.

However, getting to this point hasn’t been easy, and the work that remains to be put in will be just as tough. The team has already made enormous strides under Kinney to become a contender in the Northwest Conference, but hopes to continue the transition into a top team. The team’s success this year comes as a result of its ability to adjust to the new system, and Coach Kinney’s ability to motivate.

“Last season was just a story of a lot of losses. We knew the old coach would be out the door and we knew there’d be a new coach, but weren’t sure which. Coach Kinney stepped in beginning in the fall and it was right away a good start,” said Andrews. “He’s been in the program for a long time and so far he has executed well with that vision he had for the program.”

“Coming in as a freshman … I was unfamiliar with what college ball was like and coaching is important for that transition. Coach [Kinney] provided the guidance and patience needed for freshmen. That was really helpful,” said Ozzy Braff, a first-year shortstop.

With only three weekends left for the Missionaries, the common goal for the players and coaches is to finish off an improved season with several more solid wins.

“It means a lot to see the team seeing more success in terms of wins and losses. That helps to show that we are moving in the right direction, with our baseball IQ and athleticism improving. This is why I feel like this is the place I need to be. I want to get this program to the point where we are making a regional every year and providing the positive experience that Whitman is all about,” said Kinney.

The difference between this year’s team and ones from recent memory is discernible from the box scores alone. Unlike previous years, the team is scoring runs at a high frequency.

“Offensively, [juniors] Aaron Cohen and Cam Young have been our best hitters this season, both hitting above .360 in the middle of our lineup. [Junior] Kyle Buckham is hitting over .300 and has 14 [stolen bases], third in Conference. Kyle Moyes [’14] leads the conference with seven home runs. Cohen and Moyes are both top 15 in conference in [runs batted in] with over 22 apiece,” said Kinney.

The offense alone is not winning games. Whitman has been much more consistent in giving the team a chance to win by pitching well from start to finish.

“Pitching-wise, [sophomore] Spencer Hobson has been our best starter. He is 4-1, with a 1.93 [earned run average], and three-time Honorable Mention Pitcher of the Week. [Senior] Justin Weeks, [senior] Brett Lambert and [junior] Dakota Matherly have all been good starters for us this season. They give us a chance to win almost every outing. Cohen is 2-0, has one save and has been great out of the pen. [First-year] Robert Maislin has had three saves for us this year,” said Kinney.

With all this improvement, there are only positive hopes for the future from both players and coaches. This is an exciting transitionary time for Whitman baseball. The early successes of Coach Kinney and high praise from players beg for his transition to a permanent coaching role to get the team to the top of the conference.

The team heads to California this upcoming weekend to take on the University of Redlands before its final home series against conference-rival Whitworth University.

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