- By Marc Pendleton Staff Writer
Jeff Mercer, the head baseball coach at Wright State University the past two seasons and the Horizon League coach of the year in 2018, has been named Indiana’s head coach.
An Indiana native, his hiring was announced by IU on Monday.
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WSU promoted Mercer to its head coach in 2016 after three seasons as an assistant to Greg Lovelady, who resigned to become the head coach at Central Florida.
“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 a statement released by IU.
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“With the talent that the Midwest is producing, top notch facilities, the commitment of the school, and our ability to recruit and develop players at the highest level, the sky is the limit for IU baseball. I cannot wait to get to work.”
IU has been a dominant Big Ten program the last decade, leading the conference in total wins, conference wins and NCAA tournament appearances (five in the last six seasons).
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WSU has been just as dominant in the Horizon League in Mercer’s five seasons as an assistant and head coach. In that span the Raiders have won three league regular season and conference tournament titles, made three NCAA appearances and posted a combined 199-92 record. Mercer was an assistant under Greg Lovelady, who left Wright State for UCF after the 2016 season.
Wright State was 39-17 last season and 22-6 in the Horizon League. Its 7.8 runs per game ranked eighth in the country and the .979 fielding percentage was 10th nationally. WSU also had three players drafted in last month’s MLB Draft, all within the first 21 rounds.
WSU athletic director Bob Grant wasn’t surprised in the move. Mercer has built a reputation for high-end recruiting, developing players and exceeding expectations. “I think I’ve hired the Brad Stevens of collegiate baseball,” Indiana AD Fred Glass told the Indianapolis Star on Monday.
“This is his dream job,” Grant said. “I don’t think anybody thought he’d get his dream job this quickly, but I’m thrilled for him. They’re getting a phenomenal baseball coach and a better person.”
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WSU’s three assistants last season were Matt Talarico, Nate Metzger and Alex Sogard. “We have to figure out what Jeff is going to do with his staff at Indiana,” Grant said.
“This is the Wright State tree growing. I say it all the time. You can hire two kinds of people, the kind nobody wants and the kind somebody else covets.”
Mercer played two seasons at Dayton before transferring to WSU, where he was a two-time, all-league player in 2008-09. He also was the Horizon League player of the year in 2009. His father, Jeff Mercer Sr., was an Indiana assistant coach in 1988-89 and help found the Indiana Bulls youth baseball organization.
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Mercer succeeds Chris Lemonis at IU, which was 40-19 this past season. Lemonis lasted four seasons as the Hoosiers’ coach and landed the head coach position at Mississippi State last month.
Mercer is the second head coach to leave the area for Indiana since last year. Archie Miller resigned as Dayton’s men’s basketball coach in spring of 2017 to take over the Hoosiers. He succeeded Tom Crean.