Will Kinney

The Citadel's Will Kinney leads the Bulldogs in batting this season. Milledge Austin IV/Citadel Athletics 

One hundred and sixty-one games and 526 at-bats in college baseball are a sufficient sample size from which to draw some conclusions.

And over his first three seasons as a Citadel Bulldog, William Kinney was what his numbers said he was: A solid defensive shortstop and a .230 career hitter.

But during his senior season, the 5-11, 189-pounder from Sumter has defied sample size to turn in the best offensive season of his career, and the best for a Citadel team that is rebuilding under first-year coach Tony Skole.

Heading into the final home game of his career Tuesday night against College of Charleston, Kinney is batting .330 — a full 100 points over his career average — with career-best totals of six home runs and 39 runs batted in.

What happened?

"That's a good question," said Kinney, who batted .274 as a freshman, .190 as a sophomore and .240 as a junior.

Kinney doesn't focus on a particular "launch angle" and doesn't profess to a "Eureka!" moment with his swing. Rather, his surge seems the product of accumulated at-bats and a new focus on daily preparation.

"I credit the coaching staff a lot," Kinney said. "(Aaron) Gershenfeld and (Austin) Cangelosi have really helped me be more consistent daily. In the past, I'd be hot and have a good weekend, then go cold.

"I've been more consistent in my daily preparation, and try not to think about me so much. I just try to be a good teammate and a good role model, and worrying about that more than my own play has helped me a lot."

Kinney began the season with two hits in a season-opening win over George Mason, and hit safely in his first nine games and 12 of the first 13. For the entire season, he's never gone more than two games without a hit, and was 5 for 10 in last weekend's series against Southern Conference-leading UNC Greensboro.

His batting average never dropped below .317 this season.

"At my first meeting with Will, I told him he needs to be an all-conference player for us," Skole said. "And he's certainly played to that level.

"I think it's just been a matter of repetition. We swing a lot and we've tweaked a few things and put him in position to make small adjustments when he's out of whack. He's been so consistent for us on offense, and defensively he's been magnificent."

Kinney's chief regret is that he's not played for a winning team at The Citadel. The best Bulldog team he's played for is the squad that went 28-30 his freshman year; the last two teams under coach Fred Jordan went 17-42 and 16-35.

This year, the Bulldogs are 17-32 overall and 6-15 in league play, and locked into the SoCon Tournament play-in game against last-place Western Carolina. The Citadel wraps up the regular season next weekend at Mercer.

"That's been the hard part," said Kinney, who has graduated and will take a job with a Charleston insurance company after the season. "But I've learned a lot of life lessons on the way, and played for some great coaches. It's been tough at times, but I'm coming out of it as a better person than I was as a freshman."

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC