Purdue Baseball’s 2019 Schedule Announced

West Lafayette, Ind. –Headlined by another home-heavy stretch run, 24 dates at Alexander Field highlight Purdue baseball’s 2019 schedule unveiled by head coach Mark Wasikowski.

The Boilermakers again have five home weekends on the slate, including a non-conference series vs. Southeast Missouri State as part of a nine-game homestand from April 23 to May 7. Penn State (March 29-31), Iowa (April 12-14), Michigan State (May 3-5) and Ohio State (May 16-18) also visit Alexander Field for Big Ten weekends.

Purdue will enter the 2019 campaign riding a 13-game home win streak that dates back to April 24. Only North Carolina (18) and Stetson (17) will have longer active home win streaks going into 2019. The home opener at Alexander Field is set for March 12 vs. Milwaukee.

From April 23 through the May 18 regular-season finale, the Boilermakers are scheduled to play 13 of their 16 games at home. The only road trip during that stretch is a short one to Champaign-Urbana for a weekend series at Illinois (May 10-12). Purdue has not played at Illinois Field since April 2015, making it the longest active stretch without visiting a Big Ten ballpark.

Weekend series at fellow 2018 NCAA Regional qualifiers Southern Miss (Feb. 15-17), Texas (Feb. 22-24) and Oral Roberts (March 1-3) headline the non-conference schedule. Texas advanced to the College World Series after winning the Big 12 Conference regular-season title. Southern Miss and Oral Roberts both won their league’s regular-season and tournament titles.

Three trips to the state of Nebraska are in the mix for the Boilermakers this spring. Along with the Big Ten Tournament returning to TD Ameritrade Ballpark in Omaha, Purdue is also scheduled to play at the home of the College World Series when it visits Creighton for a non-conference series from March 8 to 10. The Boilermakers’ late-season surge this past spring included three straight wins in Omaha as part of a run to the Big Ten Tournament championship game. Meanwhile, after not playing Nebraska during the regular season each of the last two years, Purdue is scheduled to visit Haymarket Park in Lincoln (April 5-7) for the first time since May 2015.

Big Ten play opens the weekend of March 22 to 24, with the Boilermakers visiting Northwestern. The two short conference trips to the league’s Land of Lincoln contingent provide a nice balance with the longer trips to the eastern (Rutgers, April 19-21) and western (Nebraska) edges of the league.

While a Big Ten weekend series vs. Indiana is not part of the conference schedule this year, the rivals will square off for a non-conference midweek game again. The April 10 matchup will be played in Bloomington this season.

In-state opponents Valparaiso, Indiana State, Butler, Purdue Fort Wayne and Ball State all visit Alexander Field for midweek action. Xavier is also back on the schedule for the first time since a six-year midweek series ended in 2004. The Musketeers visit West Lafayette on May 14.

The Boilermakers’ spring break series at Jacksonville State (March 15-17) will be played at the newly renovated Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium in Alabama. Jax State is an Ohio Valley Conference rival of Southeast Missouri, which visits Alexander Field in April. Purdue coaches Greg Goff and Wasikowski were assistant coaches together at SEMO in the late 1990s.

With first-time opponent Milwaukee on the schedule this year, it is believed to be Purdue’s first game against a team from the state of Wisconsin since UW Madison discontinued its program following the 1991 campaign.

A full list of gameday promotions and special dates at Alexander Field will be released in February or early March. Feb. 15 is the national opening day of the 2019 college baseball season.

SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN
• Home Games: 24
• Road Games: 32

• Big Ten Home: Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State
• Big Ten Road: Northwestern, Nebraska, Rutgers, Illinois
• Big Ten Non-Play: Indiana*, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota
• Big Ten Tournament: May 22 to 26 (TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, Nebraska)

• Season-Opening Series: at Southern Miss
• Early 4-Game Weekend Series: at Texas and at Oral Roberts (Saturday Doubleheaders)
• Spring Break: 3-game series at Creighton, back in Indiana for midweek games vs. Milwaukee and Indiana State, 3-game series at Jacksonville State
• Non-Conference vs. Indiana: April 10 in Bloomington
• 3 Trips to Nebraska: March 8-10 at Creighton, April 5-7 at Nebraska, May 22-26 at B1G Tournament in Omaha
• Midweek: Ball State (2), Indiana State (2), Indiana, Butler, Xavier, Milwaukee, Bowling Green, Valparaiso, Purdue Fort Wayne, Chicago State
• Long Homestand: Purdue plays 9 straight games at Alexander Field from April 23 through May 7, hosting Southeast Missouri and Michigan State for weekend series during that stretch

• 2018 NCAA Tournament Qualifiers: Southern Miss, Texas, Oral Roberts, Indiana, Ohio State
• First-Time Foes: Milwaukee, Bowling Green
• Been a While: There are four opponents on the schedule that Purdue has not played in at least 12 years – Creighton (1989), Xavier (2004), Jacksonville State (2004), Texas (2005)
• Purdue has not played at Illinois (April 11-13) or Nebraska (May 9-11) since 2015
• Iowa (April 3-5) and Penn State (May 14-16) have not played at Alexander Field since 2015
• The Boilermakers have not played Michigan State since April 2016

Ten thoughts from the summer I

With Labor Day behind us, summer has unofficially come to an end. While temperatures throughout the Midwest have been more typical of those seen in the days following Independence Day, students at Big Ten universities have returned to campus and conference baseball teams have begun fall practice.

As programs around the country insert the keys into the ignition and start the engine, in preparation of taking on the road to Omaha, 10 Innings’ Chris Webb puts a bow on summer with the first five of 10 thoughts and observations from news and trends that developed over the summer.

An Indiana man comes home

On July 2, Indiana named Wright State head coach Jeff Mercer the 25th head coach in program history. Mercer filled the vacancy created when Mississippi State tabbed former Hoosier head coach Chris Lemonis as their head coach, eight days prior. Lemonis’ tenure in Bloomington lasted four seasons, creating an situation where IU will be on its third head coach in six seasons in 2019, even though the program has been one of the Big Ten’s best over the last decade.

Lemonis followed Tracy Smith who left after nine years to try to revive the once dominant Arizona State program. But if Indiana continues the success first established by Smith and continued by Lemonis, the Hoosiers have appeared in five of the last six NCAA Tournaments, there shouldn’t be any need for Indiana to be in search over another coach in the near future; Mercer is home.

A native of Bargersville, Indiana, Mercer guided Wright State to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances during the first two years of his head coaching career. Continuing the high level of success at the Dayton, Ohio-based program, first established by current Penn State head coach Rob Cooper, Mercer was emerging as one of college baseball’s bright young coaches. But more importantly than Mercer budding as a promising coach, is Mercer viewing Bloomington as home. To him, there is no next step, no call from a Pac-12 nor Southeastern conference program will pull him from the Hoosier State as happened to his predecessors. Calling the Indiana position his dream job, Mercer is ready to retire as a Hoosier.

“I have loved baseball and the state of Indiana my whole life and it is an honor to be the head baseball coach of the state’s flagship institution,” said Mercer in the press release of his hiring. And to talk to Mercer, it’s quick to learn those words weren’t just the correct answer to go on-record with. Leading the Indiana program, one his father was an assistant coach at from 1988-1989, is where his career goals have been aimed towards and now heart and mind is fully vested in.

This should be welcomed by IU faithful, if not demanded. Lemonis, with his hand in helping nearby Louisville develop into a regional program, was the perfect fit to succeed Smith and keep Indiana at a high-level. The seemingly seamless transition that took place four years ago shouldn’t be taken for granted, each coach has his own identity and belief in how a program should be ran and the culture that’s created. All signs point to Mercer be just as much of a slam dunk hire as Lemonis, and for Indiana players, administrators and fans alike, this should be the last hire of a head baseball coach for the foreseeable future.

As Mercer told me this summer, “it wouldn’t matter if the New York Yankees are calling, I’m saying no, this is where I want to be for the next 25 years.”

Iowa personifies the conference-wide investment in baseball

There could have been a second Big Ten program in need of a new head coach if it wasn’t for the commitment to keep Rick Heller in place by Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta and his department. Pursued by Kansas State, Heller turned down an offer to lead the Wildcats in June, to stay at Iowa.

Announced on Aug. 24, with Heller’s loyalty to the Hawkeyes came a restructured contract and a pay raise. A bump in base salary to $325,000 annually, from $262,000, for the 2018-2019 season, then to $341,000, from $275,000, the next year, on a contract that runs through the 2024 season. Crossing the $300,000-threshold placed Heller among the top five highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten, a thought unfathomable not too long about. But in five seasons in Iowa City, Heller has average a hair shy of 35 wins, collecting 173 victories, for a program that had gone 24 seasons since its last 35-win campaign, with only five such years in the program’s annuals prior to Heller’s arrival.

But ponying up additional pennies to keep Heller in place is only a part of the commitment Iowa has thrown baseball’s way, a reflection of an increase in attention Big Ten programs are experiencing all over the conference. Duane Banks Field has undergone renovations, with more plans on the table to give the grandstands a makeover. Iowa has been able to create the necessary pool for assistant coach compensation in order to flank Heller with strong assistant coaches, coaches that are active in recruiting as well as taking a forward-thinking approach on technology and analytics in baseball.

If Iowa’s two regional trips since 2015 isn’t enough to show the Big Ten of yesteryear is a distant memory, the steps took to bring Iowa to national prominence, mirror throughout the conference, should leave one with no doubt.

Max Meyer Mania continues

Helping Minnesota to its first super regional appearance, and a top ten final ranking, right-handed pitcher Max Meyer compiled one of the most decorated freshman seasons in recent Big Ten history. Tying Minnesota’s single-season saves record with 16, next to a 2.03 ERA, the standout at the back of the Gopher bullpen received All-America honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association, Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball.com, a third-team selection on each all-star rundown. Collegiate Baseball, Perfect Game and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association picked the Woodbury, Minn. product as a first-team Freshman All-American, with Collegiate Baseball naming Meyer the Freshman Relief Pitcher of the Year. Closing to home, Meyer was the first-team All-Big Ten selection at reliever.

Those accolades alone would not only fill a trophy case, but maker Meyer one of the nation’s top pitchers heading into the 2019 seasons. But what Meyer did over the summer as an encore to his freshman season places him in the elite of the elite among college baseball pitchers.

One of six freshmen named to the 26-member USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, on a team littered with the best talent from coast to coast, Meyer’s performance took a backseat to none this summer. Helping Team USA to a 12-3 showing, Meyer appeared in eight games, saving seven of USA’s victories. Although he only pitched eight innings, the ninth-most on the team, Meyer’s 15 strikeouts paced all USA pitchers. Off five hits and four walks, Meyer allowed three earned runs for a 3.38 ERA.

The last Big Ten pitcher to don the Red, White and Blue for the Collegiate National Team was Maryland right-handed Mike Shawaryn during the summer of 2016. There hasn’t been a Big Ten player play for Team USA as a freshman in at least a decade.

And one last note on Meyer, he was recruited to Minnesota as a two-way player, but the depth of the Gophers in the field and at the plate relegated him to just 30 at-bats in 2018. With program stalwarts such as Alex Boxwell, Micah Coffey, Toby Hanson and Luke Pettersen lost to graduation, and the drafting of shortstop Terrin Vavra, the plan is for Meyer to go all-in as a two-way player, where the Minnesota staff believes he’s capable of just as much production at the plate as on the mound.

Ty McDevitt’s more-than-deserved promotion

But, what if I said Meyer wasn’t even the most decorated Minnesota freshman pitcher? That could be true, as classmate Patrick Fredrickson was picked as Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, the first freshman to win the honor, alongside being names conference freshman of the year, National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by both Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA, was on every Freshman All-America team, and the ABCA named him a first-team All-American and D1Baseball.com a third-team pick.

Clearly, in Fredrickson and Meyer Minnesota has a two-headed monster every coach in the country would sign up for, potentially the best tandem of rising sophomore righties in the country. But Minnesota’s depth in the freshman class extends to Joshua Culliver, Ryan Duffy, Bubba Horton and Sam Thoresen, a collection of six pitchers poised to be the foundation of a program looking to continue the run of success that has saw the program win two of the last three Big Ten championships.

As stout as Minnesota’s 2017 recruiting class was on the mound, nearly as impressive is how quickly the group collective got up to speed and started producing, with none of the six from a location south of Omaha, all lead by a volunteer coach.

The structure of Minnesota’s coaching staff for the last two years saw Rob Fornasiere as the top assistant to John Anderson, serving as third base coach and handling a lot of the in-game strategy. Pat Casey has served as Minnesota’s hitting coach and dominant force on the recruiting trail, elevated to a full-time position after the passing of longtime pitching coach Todd Oakes. That left the volunteer role to handle the pitching duties, which former Minnesota pitcher Ty McDevitt has done in a lights out manner. Minnesota’s 3.18 team ERA in 2018 was a full run better than the 4.19 mark in 2017, even though Minnesota had to replace their ace and closer.

In the run-up to Minnesota’s memorable postseason, it was announced Fornasiere was retiring at the end of the season. With nary a negative word to be said about him as a person or coach, Fornasiere will be missed in the Gopher program, Minnesota wouldn’t be where they are without him. But it was as perfect of timing as possible for a position to open. In Anderson elevating McDevitt to be Minnesota’s third full-time coach, one of college baseball’s brightest young pitching minds will stay home and work to keep Minnesota among national prominence.

Coaching staffs continue to expand

With Indiana welcoming Mercer, Iowa keeping Heller, and McDevitt moving into a full-time role, coaching news carried most of the summer action. But, increasingly, staff news is no longer just pertains to a head coach, two full-time assistants and a volunteer assistant.

A look at news around the Big Ten this summer saw Illinois and Penn State add a director of operations positions, with Sean Moore, former Iowa volunteer, having an additional title of player development next to his director of operations position for the Nittany Lions. Now all programs except Michigan State have a director of operations position, when no program did before Nebraska joined the conference in 2012.

Mercer won’t only have a director of operations on his first staff, but former Major League veteran Scott Rolen will be Indiana’s Director of Player Development. Ohio State saw their volunteer video coordinator, Matt Angle, move into a full-time role, then realigned the role to be a control position in hiring former Buckeye and all-conference infielder Kirby Pellant.  Michigan has a standalone video coordinator position, while a year ago Rutgers introduced the position of Director of Player Development to the Scarlet Knight program.

Just as the Big Ten has seen head coach salaries have doubled on average over the last decade and increases in assistant coach salary pools to attract and retain top assistants, the sizes of Big Ten baseball staffs continue to swell, showing more and more teams are trying to find that edge to be a perennial winner.

Pellant, Riga Added to Ohio State Baseball Staff

Columbus, Ohio– Head coach Greg Beals announced the addition of former Buckeyes Kirby Pellant and Ryan Riga to the Ohio State baseball staff Wednesday. Pellant, who played two seasons for the Buckeyes from 2012-13, will serve as the quality control coordinator. Riga, who played from 2013-15, will be the student assistant coach for the 2018-19 campaign.

“I am very excited to have Kirby and Ryan back with the program,” Beals said. “They were great competitors as Buckeyes, went on to play professionally where they gained a great deal of experience. I look forward to their competitive nature and experience making an impact on Ohio State baseball once again.”

Pellant returns to the program after being the team’s student assistant coach during the 2015 campaign. A 2013 first team All-Big Ten selection, Pellant batted .301 during his senior season with 20 runs scored, five doubles, three triples, two home runs, 15 RBI and 11 walks. He also had a. 991 fielding percentage in the Buckeye infield. In two seasons, Pellant swiped 43 stolen bases, which ranks 11th in program history. His 31 stolen bases during the 2012 season ranks sixth in the OSU record book. Pellant was drafted in the 26th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and played in 46 professional games. Pellant, a native of Chandler, Ariz., graduated from Ohio State in 2015 with a degree in criminology.

“I’m excited to be back home at my alma mater,” Pellant said. “I can’t thank Coach Beals enough for giving me the opportunity to get my foot in the door with this program and elite level of competition.”

Riga, a Buckeye pitcher from 2013-15, returns to campus as a student assistant coach, while finishing his degree in sociology. Riga made 55 appearances on the mound with 26 starts for the Buckeyes. He posted a 12-8 record with a 3.39 career ERA and struck out 164 hitters in 212.2 innings of work. As a senior, Riga collected a 3.32 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 97.2 innings of work. Riga, from Fairfield, Ohio, is the record holder for the program’s scoreless innings streak set during his senior season (30.2 IP). He was drafted in the 13th round by the Chicago White Sox and made 94 appearances in three professional seasons.

“I’m excited and thankful to be back wearing the Scarlet and Gray again,” Riga said. “I jumped on this opportunity to become part of the staff while finishing up my degree the moment it was offered. To be a part of the development of this team and pitching staff on a daily basis is incredible.”

Spartans Rally Comes Up Short In Losing To Lugnuts

Lansing, Mich. — Michigan State baseball’s late-inning rally came up short in the 12th annual Crosstown Showdown Presented by Auto-Owners Insurance, falling to the Lansing Lugnuts, 6-4, on Tuesday night at a hot and humid Cooley Law School Stadium. A spirited crowd of 6,388 was on hand to watch the annual exhibition game and home run derby.

This is the third-straight season that the two teams have met in the fall after playing the previous games in the spring.

“This was a great experience as always and a lot of thanks to Nick Grueser and Tom Dixon, and the entire Lugnuts organization. It’s always one of the best nights of the year for us,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said.

Freshman outfielder Zaid Walker had a smashing debut in a Spartan uniform, participating in the home run derby before the game, then going 2-for-4 with four RBI during the game. Sophomore infielder Zach Iverson, redshirt-freshman infielder Peter Ahn and freshman catcher Gabe Sotres had the Spartans other hits. Junior pitcher Mike Mokma started on the mound for the Spartans, who utilized seven different pitchers, part of MSU’s 25 different players.

“I think we got a lot of young guys in there who were able to get their feet wet,” Boss said. “Zaid Walker is a talented kid, and Peter Ahn had a hit tonight as a freshman. Mitchell Tyranski threw really well, Mike Mokma threw well, a lot of guys really threw well. I think there are a lot of positives we can take away. It’s practice number two for us, so I’d expect us to be a little bit rusty.”

Walker is a highly decorated recruit and was selected in the MLB Draft, but chose to bypass professional baseball for the time being and join the Spartans.

“I love it here. I love wearing the Green and White. Coach Boss is great, the rest of the coaching staff is great and I’m glad to be part of the family,” Walker said. “I came here because of the coaching staff and I knew it was a great school. They have the number one program in the country for supply chain management, which was something I wanted to pursue. Also I know the baseball is great. I knew as soon as I stepped on campus it was the right fit.”

Walker drove in a pair of runs in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh.

“It’s about making adjustments. I hope this is the start of a great Spartan career. It’s a confidence booster and lets me know I can play with these guys. Also to stay humble and know it’s just a start,” Walker said.

Despite the heat and humidity, an energetic crowd was treated to an evening full of entertaining baseball, geting a preview of the 2018 Spartans squad and a look at future Lugnuts, as they called up several young prospects before Wednesday night’s playoff game.

“It’s something we use to recruit to and something guys talk about for a long, long time to come. Our first year here was 11 years ago now and those guys on our first team still talk about playing in the Crosstown Showdown. It’s a highlight of the year for them and I just can’t thank the Lugnuts and the Blue Jays for allowing it to happen,” Boss said.

Prior to the game, the two teams held a home run derby with three players from each team taking part. Sophomore catcher and defending champion Adam Proctor was joined in representing MSU by junior utility player Andrew Morrow and freshman outfielder Zaid Walker, both of whom were making their Spartan debuts. After a two swing offs were needed to determine the Spartans’ representative in the finals, Proctor advanced to face the Lugnuts’ Freddy Rodriguez of the Lugnuts. Proctor prevailed in the finals with seven home runs, topping Rodriguez’s six on a “walk-off” blast and win the Crosstown Showdown Home Run Derby for the second-straight season.

“Great for Adam, he’s a local guy so he had a lot of friends and family here. It was a lot of fun for him to come out and defend that title. It was a dog fight for sure, I think he’s going to sleep pretty well tonight,” Boss said.

The Lugnuts got on the board with a run in the second inning on an RBI triple by Jose Ferrer. Lansing tacked on three runs in the third, including a pair on a two-run double by Vinny Capra. Another run in the fourth gave the Lugnuts a 5-0 lead.

Michigan State broke through with two runs in the top of the fifth, with Walker lacing a two-run single to center, as the Spartans closed to 5-2.

Lansing tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth for a 6-2 lead. However, the Spartans rallied in the top of the seventh, again with Walker driving in a pair of runs on a two-run single to left with the bases loaded, before MSU’s rally ended with the bases loaded to end the game.

Iowa Announces Fall Schedule

Iowa City, Iowa — The University of Iowa baseball team will host three fall exhibitions, a Scout Day, and the Black & Gold Fall World Series at Duane Bank Field. The fall schedule was announced Friday by head coach Rick Heller.

The Hawkeyes begin their exhibition slate, hosting Southeastern Community College at 6 p.m. (CT) on Sept. 20 before welcoming the Ontario Blue Jays to Iowa City a day later. Game times are 6 p.m. (CT) and 5 p.m., respectively.

After holding Scout Day on Sept. 28, the Hawkeyes will face Kirkwood Community College on Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. before playing the the best-of-three Black & Gold World Series from Oct. 10-12.

Iowa returns 20 letterwinners, including five starters, from a team that finished 33-20 last season. The Hawkeyes return starting pitchers Cole McDonald (3-2, 3.23 ERA) and Jack Dreyer (5-2, 3.69 ERA), while welcoming 16 newcomers to the 2019 roster.

Iowa Baseball Fall Schedule

Sept. 20 — Southeastern Community College — Iowa City, Iowa — 6 p.m.

Sept. 21 — Ontario Blue Jays — Iowa City, Iowa — 5 p.m.

Sept. 28 — Scout Day — Iowa City, Iowa — 2 p.m.

Oct. 5 — Kirkwood Community College — 5 p.m.

Oct. 10-12 — Black & Gold Fall World Series — 2 p.m. (pregame)

Iowa’s Barta, Heller Agree on Contract Amendment

Iowa City, Iowa — Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair Gary Barta and University of Iowa head baseball coach Rick Heller have agreed on a contract amendment that will run through 2024.

“Rick has done a tremendous job from day one, winning, graduating, and building this program the right way,” said Barta. “Rick has turned this program into one that contends annually in the Big Ten Conference and nationally. This amendment puts us in a position to keep Rick in Iowa City for the foreseeable future.”

In his five seasons in Iowa City, Heller has guided the Hawkeyes to 173 victories, averaging 34.6 wins per season. Heller guided Iowa to the NCAA Regionals in 2015 — a first for the program since 1990 — and two seasons later the Hawkeyes won their first Big Ten Tournament title in program history.

Iowa has played in NCAA Regionals twice in Heller’s five seasons. The program advanced to NCAA play just three times in its history prior to Heller’s arrival. The Hawkeyes also claimed a silver medal at the 2017 World University Games, becoming the first American squad to medal in Universiade history.

Heller has coached six All-Americans and at least one first-team All-Big Ten selection in each of his five seasons and the program has had 20 Major League Baseball Draft selections — the most in a five-year stretch all-time.

Hunt Joins Anderson’s Minnesota Staff

Minneapolis —  Head coach John Anderson has announced the addition of volunteer assistant Brandon Hunt to the Gopher Baseball coaching staff for the 2019 season.

Brandon Hunt joins the Gopher Baseball program as a volunteer assistant coach after spending two seasons as the head coach at Upper Iowa University of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, serving as one of the youngest head coaches at the NCAA II level.

“I am excited and feel fortunate that Brandon Hunt and has agreed to join our staff as the volunteer assistant,” said Anderson. “He brings impressive credentials from Upper Iowa and Augustana that reflect his competence and passion for teaching the fundamentals of the game. Brandon’s coaching resume in the college game has produced consistent, successful levels of performance by his players on the field and in the classroom.”

Carrying a reputation as one of the top recruiters and one of the finest defensive coaches in the Midwest, Hunt elevated Upper Iowa into an annual contender in the highly competitive NSIC, winning 36 games in two seasons including over 30 conference victories. His Peacock teams finished in the upper echelon of the Northern Sun in fielding percentage, including a pair of players selected to the NSIC Gold Glove team during his tenure. Hunt’s teams also excelled in the classroom, finishing both 2017 and 2018 with a team GPA over 3.0.

“I want to thank John Anderson for the opportunity to join the Golden Gopher Baseball program. The culture and winning tradition that has been built here is truly special, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to help our student athletes grow both on and off the field,” said Hunt. “I have followed the program for many years and been impressed with how the Gophers approach the game. Their selfless attitude is a testament to the culture that has been built over the years, and I look forward to continuing that tradition.”

Before arriving in Fayette, Hunt served as an assistant coach for Augustana (S.D.) University for four seasons, earning a promotion to lead assistant and recruiting coordinator after two years as a volunteer on head coach Tim Huber’s staff. During his stay in Sioux Falls, five different Vikings earned All-NSIC honors while a program-record four infielders earned selections to the NSIC’s Gold Glove Team. Hunt also played a major role in the development of Augustana’s Jack Goihl, an All-American selection and 2015 MLB Draft pick by the Cleveland organization.

“Brandon’s strong baseball IQ, work ethic and personal values are a solid match for our culture and ‘Why,'” added Anderson. “I look forward to working with Brandon as we continue to grow our strong history and tradition in the 21st century and help him achieve his college coaching goals.”

A native of Rapid City, South Dakota, Hunt played catcher collegiately at Augustana from 2002-05 after graduating from Rapid City Stevens High School. He currently resides in St. Louis Park.

Upper Iowa Director of Athletics Rick Hartzell on Hunt:
“Brandon Hunt did an exceptional job at building a highly competitive baseball program at Upper Iowa. He recruited quality student-athletes who not only did their work in the classroom but also played at a very high level. His teams played hard, with great enthusiasm and passion, and they played for nine innings every day. In addition, Brandon, his staff and players were fully immersed in our department. They supported other staff and teams, and they brought great enthusiasm to everything they did. Brandon will be missed here; he was a key part of our staff and our future, but we wish him all the very best in this new opportunity and we all will be watching his successes.”

Iowa Head Coach Rick Heller on Hunt: “Brandon is a smart, hardworking leader with infectious positive energy. He is a proven winner and an excellent baseball coach. Brandon will do a great job for the Gophers.”

Nebraska’s Ledbetter to Transition into Volunteer Coach Role

Lincoln, Neb. — Head Coach Darin Erstad announced on Wednesday that Curtis Ledbetter will take on a new role with the Nebraska baseball team as the volunteer coach after spending 10 years as the team’s director of operations.

“We could not be more excited to add Coach Ledbetter to our staff,” Erstad said. “He has been a vital part of the Nebraska baseball program for last 10 years in the director of operations role. Coach Ledbetter wants to pursue his dream of coaching college baseball, and I am glad he chose our program to chase his dream.”

Ledbetter, a former all-conference performer at Nebraska, joined the Husker staff in May of 2008 after a stint in professional baseball. Starting with the 2019 season, he will be the Huskers’ first-base coach.

“The past 10 years have provided an amazing experience for my family and I here while serving as the director of baseball operations,” Ledbetter said. “I’m super excited for the opportunity Coach Erstad has offered to me to be on his 2019 staff in a slightly different role. Coaching is something that I’ve eventually wanted to do since stepping foot back on campus following my playing career. It’s something that I’m very passionate about, and a chapter in my life which I’m extremely excited for. This place has provided opportunities for me in the past 17 years that I’ll never be able to repay it for, but I’m fired up to continue giving it a try, now in helping these student-athletes grow as people and ball players on the diamond.”

An 18th-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2005, Ledbetter played professional baseball for three years, earning Frontier League all-star honors in 2007 – his final season in the professional ranks. In addition to his playing duties, Ledbetter worked at the Nebraska Baseball Academy.

Ledbetter was a three-year starter for the Huskers from 2003 to 2005, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors at two positions (designated hitter and first base). He ranks among the best in NU baseball history in several categories, including career hits (tied for 21st, 223), career home runs (tied for 10th, 34), career RBIs (10th, 165), career doubles (tied for fifth, 47) and career putouts (second, 1,216).

Ledbetter holds the school record for single-season putouts (655), which he achieved as part of Nebraska’s 2005 College World Series team. He added Big 12 Tournament MVP honors to his list of accomplishments as a senior in 2005, as the Huskers swept the conference regular-season and tournament titles. Ledbetter also earned NCAA Tournament All-Regional honors in 2003 and 2005.

In the classroom, Ledbetter was a three-time academic All-Big 12 selection, a Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll member and graduated from Nebraska in 2005 with a degree in journalism. He added a master’s degree in education administration in December of 2012.

A native of Lawrence, Kan., Ledbetter played one season at Garden City Community College, earning honorable-mention All-Jayhawk League accolades. He hit .404 with 13 home runs and threw out 50 percent of would-be base stealers as the team’s catcher.

Penn State Baseball Adds Two to Staff

University Park, Penn. — Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper announced the addition of two staff members Friday, as Sean Moore joins as the team’s director of operations and player development and Dallas Burke joins as a volunteer assistant coach.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Sean Moore and Dallas Burke to Penn State,” said Cooper. “Both are extremely dedicated to the mission of Penn State athletics and our baseball program. We believe they will make a positive impact on our program, both on and off the field.”

Sean Moore

Moore, an Iowa graduate, joins the Nittany Lions in a newly-created position after most recently spending two seasons as the volunteer assistant coach for the Hawkeyes as the teams’ hitting coach.

“Sean will be instrumental in the day to day operation of the baseball program, while also assisting our coaching staff in determining the best practices to develop our players,” said Cooper. “His experience with technology, research, and the most recent training protocols will be a tremendous asset. His experience coaching and playing in the Big Ten will be invaluable.”

“I am very excited for the opportunity to help out the Penn State baseball program moving forward,” said Moore. “I believe in what Coach Cooper is trying to do and the culture he has created. The additions to the coaching staff are only going to enhance what they have already done and take this program to the top of the Big Ten where it belongs.”

During the 2018 season, Moore helped guide Iowa to its fifth-straight 30-win season, three series wins against ranked opponents and eight victories against top 25 teams. He coached four All-Big Ten selections, including three first-team selections and Iowa had a record-tying five players selected in the 2018 MLB Draft.

Iowa won 39 games in 2017 — Moore’s first season on the coaching staff — claimed the first Big Ten Tournament title in school history, and advanced to NCAA Regional play — the program’s second in three seasons. The Hawkeyes saw five players garner All-Big Ten recognition, including unanimous first-team All-Big Ten first baseman and unanimous Big Ten Player of the Year honoree Jake Adams, who hit an NCAA leading, Iowa school and Big Ten-record 29 home runs. The Hawkeyes ranked among the top three in the Big Ten in nine difference offensive categories, including leading the league in hits, RBIs, and slugging percentage, while ranking second in runs, doubles, home runs, and total bases. Individually, Iowa players led the Big Ten in runs, slugging percentage, hits, RBIs, home runs, and total bases. Four Hawkeyes were drafted in the MLB Draft.

After wrapping up his own playing career in 2015, Moore joined the coaching staff at Des Moines Area Community College as the program’s hitting and strength and conditioning coach. The Bears won 30 games during the 2016 season, where they hit .331 as a team with 78 home runs, 126 doubles, and 15 triples.

The Coralville, Iowa, native has also served as director of baseball operations at Diamond Dreams Sports Academy, where he has continued researching the biomechanical movements of each phase of the swing.

Moore’s collegiate playing career consisted of three stops. He played two seasons at DMACC, where he helped the Bears to an NJCAA World Series berth in 2011 before earning All-Region XI honors in 2012. He spent the 2013 season at Wichita State before transferring and wrapping up his career as a Hawkeye in 2015. Iowa won 41 games in his lone season and advanced to NCAA Regional play for the first time since 1990.

Moore, a certified hitting instructor, graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in leisure studies in 2015.

Dallas Burke

Burke also has an Iowa connection as he played there two years before completing his career at Missouri Southern State University. He has been a volunteer assistant at Division I schools for the past two seasons, with stops at Bowling Green (2016-17) and West Virginia (2017-18).

“Dallas is a young energetic coach who will help coach the hitters and catchers,” said Cooper. “He has a great way of connecting with players and teaching them the game of baseball. His experience playing in the Big Ten is also a plus.”

“I am very excited for the opportunity to coach at Penn State University,” said Burke. “This is a place where something extremely special can happen. Rob Cooper has put together a staff that will make the environment here for a baseball student athlete second to none. Now it is time to get to work!”

Most recently with the Mountaineers, Burke’s primary responsibilities included coaching the catchers and assisting with hitters, with one catcher earning an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team. At Bowling Green, Burke held similar responsibilities, and his catchers threw out 51 percent of base stealers overall and 59 percent in Mid-American Conference play. Both totals ranked No. 1 in the MAC.

Burke spent the three previous seasons at Black Hawk Junior College in Moline, Illinois, as the program’s assistant coach/recruiting coordinator and camp coordinator. The team captured two-consecutive conference championships during his tenure, and he coached 19 first team all-conference players, seven all-region players, two All-Americans and nine academic All-Americans. Burke also built a strong track record of sending players to the next level at BHCC. Twelve players over his three seasons moved on to Division I programs, including both starting catchers that he worked with.

A catcher during his playing days, Burke continued his career after college at the professional level. He played one season with the Roswell Invaders of the Pecos League (Independent Professional Baseball) in New Mexico in 2013, before spending parts of 2014 with the Cologne Cardinals in Germany as a player and coach. Along with playing in Cologne, Burke worked camps at MLB Academies across Europe to help develop the game throughout the continent.

Burke began his collegiate playing career at the University of Iowa from 2008-10, where he was named a Freshman All-Big Ten selection as a catcher in 2009. He finished his collegiate career at Missouri Southern State University. In three seasons at Missouri Southern, Burke was named an All-MIAA selection twice and is ranked No. 10 in school history for career batting average and No. 12 in career fielding percentage. In 2013, he helped Missouri Southern win its first conference title in 21 years.

A native of Davenport, Iowa, Burke graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a bachelor’s degree in arts in history.

Courtwright Joins Illini Staff

Champaign, Ill. — Curt Courtwright joined the Illinois baseball coaching staff as a volunteer assistant, head coach Dan Hartleb announced. Courtwright takes over the role after Casey Fletcher departed for a full-time assistant job at Valparaiso.

Courtwright spent the previous three seasons at Eastern Illinois under head coach Jason Anderson, a former Fighting Illini and MLB pitcher. Courtwright helped instruct the infielders and hitters at EIU, helping the Panthers finish one double play shy of leading the nation in 2017.

Courtwright spent one year as an assistant at Rend Lake College in 2014, primarily working as the hitting and infield instructor as well as the recruiting coordinator, prior to his stop at EIU.

A native of Lincoln, Illinois, Courtwright competed at various levels of baseball. During his four-year career playing at Missouri State, Courtwright appeared in 158 games for the Bears and left as the school record holder for assists in a game. Courtwright played for the Glens Falls Golden Eagles in the New York Collegiate Baseball League and was named team MVP in 2008. In 2010, he played professionally for the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League.

After his time with the Grizzlies, Courtwright began his coaching career. He was the head coach at Lincoln Community High School before serving as the hitting and infield coach for the Morehead City Marlins of the Coastal Plains League.

Courtwright earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations with a minor in business from Missouri State in 2010.

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