With more than 20 professional scouts on hand to watch his team take batting practice, Baylor's Cooper Kinney was locked in and blistering the baseball before Wednesday's game against McCallie. Several of his shots landed well beyond the fence in right and center, with one banging off a football blocking sled sitting out in the open field.
The left-handed senior's round of BP was more than an exhibition of power, though — it provided an accurate glimpse of what Kinney has been doing against live pitching this season. In his past nine games, the South Carolina signee is batting .633 (19-for-30) with five home runs, eight doubles and 26 RBIs.
"The kid is on fire. He just keeps hammering the ball," Baylor coach Greg Elie said. "He is one of the best high school hitters in the country and keeps proving it day in and day out. To watch him get out here and drive for success with all of our guys has been really fun to watch."
Kinney has caught the radar of many MLB teams and scouts because of his complete makeup as a hitter, which has helped him put together a hitting streak that reached 16 games in Wednesday's 3-2 win against McCallie.
In Baylor's sweep of the rival Blue Tornado — the Red Raiders won 8-2 on Tuesday — he showed off his opposite-field power by hitting an RBI double off the top of the left-field fence and homering to left. He drove in five runs in the series, and he also handled the pitching staff well Wednesday while playing catcher to help the Red Raiders improve to 20-3.
"Cooper has spent hours and hours with me in the cages putting the work in," said Baylor co-head coach Mike Kinney, Cooper's father. "To see all the things it takes to become a good hitter come to fruition is a proud moment for me. He has been putting in so many years of hard work, and to see his game really blossoming is a joy. As a father, to watch your son enjoy the thing they love the most and to have the type of success he is having is really rewarding."
The Dayton native leads the Red Raiders this season with 15 doubles, 22 extra-base hits, 34 RBIs and a .459 batting average (34-for-74). Beyond his high school success, Kinney's achievements include competing as a member of Team USA and winning a championship with the 12-and-under squad in Taiwan.
"I am focused on hitting the ball hard and spraying it to all fields," Kinney said. "This is a great team, and the guys around me are all solid in the lineup and in the field. I have loved playing for my dad, and being with him on the baseball field is something I really cherish. We have a great relationship, and I am really thankful for that."
Whether he follows through and plays college baseball with the Gamecocks or signs with an MLB team and heads to the minor leagues, Cooper knows there are decisions to be made in the near future. For now, he is locked in on trying to help Baylor win a third consecutive TSSAA Division II-AA state championship.
With the regular season nearing its finish, that push will soon begin in earnest.
"Our slogan is win one," Cooper said. "We are focused on winning the next game. We are certainly striving for another state championship, too. Every day we are preparing for that last game. We all want to be playing the best we can at the end. We are looking forward to every moment we have together out here the rest of the season."