Let this flow over you: In 23 years as the Delta State head coach, Mike Kinnison won an NCAA Division II national championship, six regional titles, eight Gulf South Conference championships (including 2019), nine GSC coach of the year awards and 981 games with a .756 career winning percentage. A no-nonsense kind of guy with a keen eye for finding players who fit at DSU, Kinnison coached dozens of All-Americans and three national players of the year. The Benton native played for Boo Ferriss and coached under Bill Marchant, two other Statesmen coaching legends, and was elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Kinnison announced today that he is relinquishing his coaching duties to focus full-time on the athletic director role he assumed earlier this year. The search is on for the next coach. How would you like to follow that act? First Hill Denson retires at Belhaven, now Kinnison steps aside at DSU. The college baseball scene in Mississippi will look very different in 2020.
Nick Sandlin has made a rapid ascent in the Cleveland organization. A second-round pick and the fourth player drafted out of Mississippi in 2018, the ex-Southern Miss ace was promoted to Triple-A last week and has made two relief appearances for the Columbus Clippers. He allowed two runs in his debut but worked a clean inning on Saturday. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 1.56 ERA in 15 games at Double-A Akron this year. He climbed through four levels of the minors last summer, finishing with a 3.00 ERA and five saves. He has 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 pro innings. Rated the No. 17 prospect in the Indians’ system by MLB Pipeline, Sandlin could make the big league team this season. … The first Mississippian chosen in 2018, Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison, is now with Colorado’s advanced Class A Lancaster club. The lefty, the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in nine starts and has made the California League All-Star Game. … Forecast by many as a first-round draft pick in 2018, Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington slipped to the third round, where he was plucked by the Chicago White Sox. The East Central High alum, who moved from low-A Kannapolis to high-A Winston Salem in mid-May, is 1-1, 6.16 in four starts at the new level. He had a 1.62 ERA at the low-A level. … Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, the top high school pick from the state last year who signed a pro contract (first-rounder J.T. Ginn of Brandon went to State), is already rated the No. 7 prospect in Milwaukee’s system though he has yet to play above the rookie level. The 2018 second-rounder hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the Arizona League, playing through a bout of pneumonia. He’ll likely go to the Pioneer League this summer. “He has the tools, no doubt about it,” Rafael Neda, Gray’s manager last year, told Baseball America this spring. “He’s a really athletic kid with a high ceiling. We’ve started to see that.”
The New Albany-based Cotton States League is under way, with the Tippah County Tribe, featuring several Blue Mountain College players, off to a 3-1 start. Among the league’s top hitters to date are Northeast Mississippi CC alum Landon Wilkerson (.500, eight RBIs for the Tupelo Thunder) and Belhaven’s Nathan Herron (.500, homer, nine RBIs for the Golden Triangle Jets). Northeast CC alum Nikolas Wilcher is 2-0, 1.80 ERA for 3-2 Tupelo. This is the CSL’s 11th season. … In the Texas Collegiate League, the Acadiana Cane Cutters’ roster is replete with Mississippians: Southern Miss’ Hunter LeBlanc, Fisher Norris, Josh Lewis and Drew Boyd, Delta State’s Kris Peet, Hunter Stafford and Bailey Hargrave, Hinds Community College alum Noah Hughes and Jones JC product Trace Henry. … The Cape Cod League season starts today, though none of the Mississippi State or Ole Miss players slated for the high-profile summer league are there yet for obvious reasons. One of the main attractions in the Cape figures to be J.T. Ginn, who starred as a freshman (8-4, 3.36 ERA) for State this season after being a first-round MLB draft pick last summer. Ginn is ticketed to pitch for Orleans. After a star-studded career as a two-way player at Brandon High, Ginn was drafted 30th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers but passed on the pro opportunity to play at State with no apparent regrets. The Hyannis team has a distinct Mississippi flavor, with three MSU players and one from Ole Miss listed on the club’s preseason roster. Bulldogs Tanner Allen, Rowdey Jordan and Jordan Westburg are joined by the Rebels’ Anthony Servideo. UM’s Tyler Keenan and former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, now at Tennessee, will play for Harwich, and State’s Justin Foscue is on the Wareham roster.