There is a pipeline being built between Cartersville and Rome.
Thankfully, it’s not the kind that will lead to a political confrontation. Instead, it’s one flowing with baseball talent from Woodland High to Shorter University.
After Class of 2017 catcher Hunter Reaid joined the Hawks, the migration really started in earnest this season. Shortstop Jordan Lee signed to play at Shorter earlier this spring, and then Thursday the Hawks landed Woodland pitcher Kenny Jinks.
So what is it that’s drawing the Wildcats to Rome?
“Our staff and their staff, we really do the same things,” Woodland coach Colby Coursey said. “Our kids practice the same way they do. Their coaching philosophy is the same as us.
“They’re finding guys who fit into their program. Being close by and having kids who can help them out is a luxury. Plus, they get to stay closer to home and play. This county and surrounding counties, there is a lot of talent.”
Like his classmate Lee, Jinks felt like the coaches at Shorter, including head coach Wes Timmons, a former 12th-round pick of the Atlanta Braves, were the deciding factor.
“The coaches are friendly,” Jinks said. “They opened up to me a lot more than other colleges. The facilities were good. I felt like it was a great place to go to.”
The tall, lanky lefty has had a tale of two halves this season.
Early in the campaign, he struggled with his command. But since the start of play in Region 7-AAAAA, Jinks has been dang-near unhittable.
He hasn’t always come out on the winning side due to an inconsistent offense. However, Coursey believes every time Jinks takes the mound it’s a chance for something special to happen.
“When he comes out and he’s on, he’s tough,” Coursey said. “He throws three pitches for strikes. He commands the zone well. He works at a good pace. When he gets in a rhythm, he’s tough to stop.”
Part of his success comes from an ability to execute a game plan to perfection. Coursey said he’s asked Jinks to do more studying this year.
With some players, the move might have put too much on his plate and ultimately backfired. But with Jinks, it has paid huge dividends, while also preparing him for how colleges handle their pitchers.
“I’m really proud of him,” Coursey said. “He’ll to do a great job at Shorter. Wes and them are doing a great job at that program getting them turned around. They know with arms like Kenny, that’s only going to help them out. Guys that come in, command the zone and get groundballs, those are guys that are hard to find, especially being a lefty.
“He’s got a little upside, too. He can get in the weight room add a little strength, add a little more velocity. … The sky’s the limit for him. It’s just how much he wants to work and how hard he wants to work.”
Right now, Jinks is working to help the Wildcats lock up their first postseason berth in several years.
Woodland enters the final week of the regular season in a three-way tie for third in the region. With only the top four teams qualifying, every game is magnified.
Jinks will get the start Monday against Carrollton — the No. 1 team in the region and No. 3 team in Class 5A. There’s a good chance he starts against Friday at Hiram if Woodland hasn’t secured a playoff spot by then.
For now, though, he’s focused on getting some redemption against the Trojans.
Redemption for his team after the Wildcats were routed 14-4 on Friday. And redemption for himself after letting a late lead slip away against Carrollton last year.
“They hit the ball pretty well, so I’m going to try to keep it low,” Jinks said after watching the run-rule defeat Friday. “Last year, it was a big game. I pitched there, we were winning 4-2, and we kind of lost it there at the end — heartbreaker. So I’m looking to redeem myself, so that would be a big game for me.”