GRANVILLE — The smile on Brett Kinneman’s face can’t be helped when asked about his favorite baseball team.
“I probably shouldn’t let this get on camera,” the West Virginia Black Bears right fielder and York, Pa. native begins. “I’ve been a lifetime New York Yankees fan.”
Still, the Pittsburgh Pirates took the North Carolina State power hitter in the seventh round of the 2018 draft.
“It’s an honor to be with the Pirates,” Kinneman said. “I had a brother go to the University of Pittsburgh. I probably should be a bigger fan of the city.”
The Pirates can’t be anything but happy with Kinneman lately.
He went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored in Sunday’s 4-3 loss against Auburn (13-9), in front of 2,511 fans at Monongalia County Ballpark. He extended his hitting streak to five games.
“I think he’s starting to slow the game down,” Black Bears manager Kieran Mattison said. “He’s starting to understand what it means to have a good consistent approach to the plate.”
Over his past 10 games, Kinneman is hitting .353 with 10 walks and five RBIs. His season batting average sits at .304.
That is a far cry from the start of the season, when he was hitting .211 eight games into his professional career.
“It was just a matter of time for Brett,” Mattison said. “He’s walked a lot and he’s showing great patience and he’s not swinging at bad pitches.”
Kinneman is showing signs of becoming a more well-rounded hitter, too. His final season at North Carolina State saw him finish 28th in the nation with 17 home runs and he led the Wolfpack with 61 RBIs, all while hitting just .274.
The lefty went to the opposite field for his double against the Doubledays and while he is still looking for his professional home run, his on-base percentage is a healthy .432.
“He has the potential, for sure,” Mattison said. “These college guys are going from aluminum [bats] to wood, so it takes time. Sometimes the power is the last thing that develops, but he’s got that in the tank.”
The Black Bears (10-13) nearly pulled off a comeback for a second straight game.
Trailing, 4-2, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Raul Siri doubled, followed by a walk from Robbie Glendinning.
Michael de la Cruz doubled home Siri to cut the lead, 4-3, before Daniel Amaral’s groundout to first ended the game.
“We had nobody on with two outs, but you still expect something to happen,” Mattison said. “You always expect something until you get that 27th out.
“It’s fun with this bunch. Not a lot of nerves. If you have nerves in this business, you’re in the wrong place.”
Starter Michael Flynn, a sixth-round pick out of Arizona this year, took the loss. He went 3 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on three hits. His season ERA is 11.74 in three starts.
The two teams will complete the three-game series at 7 p.m. today, at Mon County Ballpark.
Siri returned to the Black Bears after playing six games with the West Virginia Power (full-season Class A) in Charleston.
The second baseman batted .105 (2-for-19) with the Power.