Booneville, Miss. - Kevin Connell is excited about transitioning from one diamond sport to the other and joining one of the most tradition-rich ball clubs in the Magnolia State.
Connell has been tabbed as the new assistant coach for the Northeast Mississippi Community College softball team, which has qualified for the postseason in 14 of its 16 seasons of fast-pitch competition.
The Johnson City, Tenn., native will actually begin his second season at Northeast this spring. Connell served as a volunteer assistant for the baseball program during the 2016 campaign.
"I had the opportunity to be around Kevin all of last year and he had the opportunity to be around our players as he helped us in the weight room," said Tigers head coach Jody Long. "Having that relationship with the players, when the job came open it was just a win-win situation for us and him.
"He brings a lot of energy and positivity on a daily basis. He's a hard worker that's eager to learn. He's jumped in there from day one and pushes the kids to have high expectations. I'm very excited about the things that coach Connell and I will be able to accomplish."
He was the first base coach for Northeast baseball one season ago and also focused on refining the offensive techniques of individual student-athletes during practice sessions.
Connell instructed several of the state's top hitters, including Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State selection Bailey Walker. He had team-highs of a .375 batting average, 11 doubles, four triples, three home runs and 31 RBIs.
He also advised Garrison Howell, who topped the Tigers with 52 hits, 35 runs and 23 walks. Howell also wielded a .374 batting average, a .460 on-base percentage and 18 RBIs.
Connell guided Northeast to its third 20-plus win baseball season in the last four years. He looks to do the same during the 2017 campaign with a softball squad that is accustomed to competing at the highest level.
"I'm looking forward to it," Connell said. "My passion is coaching, mentoring the kids and watching them develop over the years as players. Any chance that I have to impact a kids' life, I'm going to jump on it.
"In the big scheme of things, God has a plan for everyone and I think God's plan for me right now is to work with coach Long and with those girls to develop them not just as players, but as winners outside of sports."
Connell was a three-sport standout at Daniel Boone (Tenn.) High School. He was an Under Armour All-American baseball athlete that posted an earned run average (ERA) of 3.16 during his junior campaign.
He signed with the Military College of South Carolina (The Citadel) and completed a stellar career inside the rugged Southern Conference (SoCon) as primarily a relief pitcher.
Connell appeared in 94 games during his tenure with the Bulldogs and was the winning pitcher in four of those contests. He compiled 170.2 innings on the mound with 104 strikeouts compared to 84 walks.
His overall ERA at The Citadel was a 5.92, but he trimmed that to a 3.74 as a senior. He picked up wins that year against the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and East Tennessee State University.
Connell had the chance to toe the rubber against some of the top college programs in the country, including the University of South Carolina and reigning national champion Coastal Carolina (S.C.) University.
He was tabbed to the SoCon All-Freshman team in 2012 after compiling a 3.86 ERA in six league starts for the Bulldogs. Connell tossed 60 innings total that campaign with 34 strikeouts.
Connell led The Citadel to the SoCon Tournament championship game during his sophomore season by starting the semifinal matchup against Appalachian State (N.C.) University and throwing the initial 3.2 frames.
"Jody and coach (David) Carnell built this program," said Connell. "There's tons of talent around here. With the atmosphere that we have, there's going to be a lot of recruits that want to play here. We want to make some noise in the upcoming years."