POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River softball coach Christie Meeks has finalized her 2020-21 staff with the addition of Simone McKinney.
The Gulfport native will work with outfielders and slap-hitters. She will also help to coordinate fundraising efforts.
"We're really excited about her to come on to work with our slappers and outfield. She'll bring a lot of knowledge of the game to those positions," Meeks said. "Simone being local and having excelled in our league will be valuable to both our players and her evolution as a coach."
Meeks highlighted McKinney's selfless attitude and desire to go into social work.
"She feels led to go into social work to help people," she said. "That's great. She likes to solve problems and I think that's something that will really help her in our profession to work through adversities."
McKinney joins the Wildcat staff after graduating from Alcorn State. At the time the 2020 season was halted, the All-SWAC preseason selection was leading the Braves with a .333 average through 25 games. McKinney also racked up 26 hits with three doubles, six RBIs and five stolen bases.
As a junior, McKinney was a second team All-SWAC selection. She led ASU with a .322 average with 16 runs scored, eight RBIs and two doubles. She also registered nine multi-hit games, including ASU's only two four-hit performances of the season. She finished her career having started in 60 of 64 games in center field and having batted in either the first or second spot in the lineup.
McKinney also got it done in the classroom in Lorman as she earned a 4.0 GPA in three semesters and was a two-time SWAC Commissioner's Honor Roll selection.
"You're talking about one of the best young ladies I know. Forget the softball part, Simone is an awesome young lady," Rankin said. "She's really a high character person from an outstanding family. We go back from her years at Harrison Central until now. I am glad I got to coach her verses all of the years trying to figure out a way to keep her off base.
"I am just so proud," Rankin continued. "She's been like a daughter. Simone is going to a quality program with my friend, Coach Meeks, and she gets to be a part of an outstanding department and institution.
"I know she will be taken care of and she will definitely help Pearl River softball continue to impact those within their program and everyone else around them."
PRIOR PLAYING EXPERIENCE
McKinney transferred to ASU from Jones College, where she was a critical piece of the Bobcats' 2018 National Championship team. During that season, McKinney hit .403 with 32 runs scored, 25 hits, one double, 11 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
Prior to breaking her leg as a freshman on JC's 55-win 2017 squad, McKinney still hit .318 with two doubles, one triple, two RBIs, three walks and one stolen base in seven games.
Prior to playing collegiately, McKinney built a reputation as a true winner and determined competitor while starring at perennial powerhouse Harrison Central in Gulfport.
During her prep career, McKinney hit a robust .448 with a .499 on-base percentage, 176 hits, 141 runs scored, 37 RBIs, 10 doubles, five triples and four homers. Her 43 stolen bases are a school record. She was also a MHSAA 6A State Champion in 2016, '15 and '14.
As a senior, McKinney really broke out, hitting .605 with 45 runs scored and was named an All-American. She also earned a spot on the MHSAA All-State squad and was a two-time selection on the Sun Herald's All-South Mississippi team.
HCHS coach Jimmy Parker's not surprised McKinney is getting into coaching.
"She's real personable. She can get along with anybody," HCHS coach Jimmy Parker said. "She's also a perfectionist and pushes everyone around her to be one as well.
"She understands the game — she understood the game when we got here in seventh grade because she studies the game."
Parker can tell story after story about McKinney's time with Harrison Central. It wasn't uncommon, he said, for McKinney to see a younger teammate struggling during practice and walk up to her to work on their technique. She invested the time on others because she expected the same from herself.
"If she struggled at something during a game, like hitting pitches low and away, she would get in the cage after everyone else was gone and work on it for an hour," he said. "She's just a great kid. I'm thrilled for her to get this opportunity."
McKinney graduated in May with a Bachelor's degree in psychology. She is currently working toward her Master's degree in social work at Southern Miss.
McKinney is the daughter of Lee McKinney and Christina Waugh and has two siblings, Alexis and Bryce.