- By Marc Pendleton Staff Writer
So what happens to Wright State University baseball now? If its recent trend continues, more good things.
The Raiders are going on their fourth head coach since 2013 following Jeff Mercer’s jump to Indiana on Monday. That’s a lot of main-man turnover, following Rob Cooper (2005-13), Greg Lovelady (2014-16) and Mercer (2017-18).
All shared in making WSU baseball a Horizon League power and a tough out in the NCAA Tournament, which the Raiders have qualified for in three of the last four seasons.
»RELATED: Mercer leaves Raiders for Hoosiers
That’s the kind of excellent play the next coach will inherit. An eventual bump up to the next level also is the norm. Cooper has been Penn State’s coach the last five seasons. A Florida native, Lovelady was a standout catcher on the University of Miami’s 1999 and 2001 national championship teams. He left WSU to run Central Florida’s program. And now Mercer is at IU, a Big Ten power the last decade.
“We have a culture and situation in place in which we’re wired to win and win at a high level,” WSU athletic director Bob Grant said. “That’s my expectation level.”
»RELATED: Baylor bounces Wright State
Here’s five things to know about the Raiders baseball program:
In the beginning: It all started with Ron Nischwitz. The home-grown former MLB pitcher was the Raiders’ head coach for 30 seasons and oversaw the upgrade to NCAA D-I in 1988. WSU plays its home games at Nischwitz Stadium, a 750-seat jewel that’s nestled within a long fly ball from the Nutter Center.
Crosstown hit: An Indiana native, Mercer played two seasons at Dayton, then became a rare impact transfer to Wright State. He was the Horizon League player of the year as a senior in 2009. The only other athlete to transfer from UD to WSU and have a similar impact was basketball player Cain Daliboa (2001-02).
Can’t beat that: WSU has won 40-plus games three times. The best record was 45-12 as a D-I independent in 1989. Lovelady’s final team was 46-17, which followed a 43-16 season.
The Raiders’ program progression since becoming D-I: independent (1988-91), Mid-Continent Conference (1992-94), Midwestern Collegiate Conference (1995-2001) and the Horizon League (2002-present).
Familiar faces: The Raiders traditionally feature an abundance of local talent. On the roster this past season were: redshirt-jr. OF Zach Weatherford (Northmont), jr. C Brandon Giltrow (Lakota West), redshirt-jr. RHP Jeremy Randolph (Miamisburg), fr. IF Justin McConnell (Springboro), so. OF Seth Gray (Springfield Shawnee), jr. LHP Zane Collins (Ben Logan), redshirt-sr. RHP Derek Hendrixson (Centerville), redshirt-fr. OF/LHP Quincy Hamilton (Centerville), so. RHP Mitch Gremling (Butler) and fr. IF Damon Dues (Butler).
Help wanted: Since former basketball standout and coach Bob Grote was selected in the 12th round by the Mets in the 1976 MLB Draft, 32 other Raiders have followed. Reliever Joe Smith (Mets, 2006) is currently pitching for the Blue Jays. Outfielder Keith Gordon (Reds, 1990) was the first former Raider to make it to The Show with the Reds in 1992. Pitcher Brian Anderson was the highest draft pick, going third overall to the Angels in 1993.
Three Raiders were taken in the June MLB Draft: redshirt-so. RHP Ryan Weiss (Diamondbacks, 4th round), redshirt-so. RHP Caleb Sampen (Dodgers, 20th round) and redshirt-sr. 1B Gabe Snyder (Twins, 21st round).
Outfielder Matt Morrow a Richmond, Indiana, product, signed as a free agent with the Pirates last month. He was first team All-HL in three of four seasons as a Raider.
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Bonus he said it: “My expectation – as always – is we will not miss a beat. The Raider Gang – as they affectionately call themselves – will continue to be a bully on the block in the Horizon League and a force nationally. It’s up to us to keep that culture going.” – Raiders AD Bob Grant