HUNTSVILLE - Sam Houston State director of athletics Bobby Williams has announced that David Pierce will be the next head coach of the Bearkat Baseball team.

"I received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from both the baseball and the Sam Houston community about his candidacy for this job," Williams said. "He is very respected by everyone I talked to, both inside baseball and out."

Pierce, who served as an assistant coach at Rice for the last nine years, will replace Mark Johnson, who announced his retirement from baseball at the beginning of the season.

"I am excited and looking forward to this opportunity," Pierce said. "I think everything I have done in my career, from working in high school, to working at Houston and Rice, has prepared me for this chance. I want to thank everyone at Rice for all they have done for me, and I also want to thank Dr. Gibson and Bobby Williams for giving me this opportunity here at Sam Houston."

He inherits a team that went 35-24 this past season and finished fifth in the Southland Conference. The Kats ranked in the top three in the Southland this past season in batting, pitching and fielding, and will return three regular position players and two starting pitchers.

"This is such a good situation here at Sam Houston State with the baseball program, and a lot of that credit goes to Mark Johnson and the job he did here," Pierce said. "When you look at where we are located, I think we have a chance to really recruit well and bring in some very good players on a yearly basis."

Pierce has been the pitching coach for a Rice Owl team that has been one of the best in college baseball. In the last five years, the Rice pitching staff has been ranked in the top 30 in the NCAA in staff ERA, including a No. 4 national mark in 2007.

Pierce got his first top job as a head coach for five seasons at Pasadena's Dobie High School, where he led the Longhorns to three District 23-5A championships and three berths in the Region III semifinals.

"David Pierce has an excellent track record not only on the college level, but also in high school as well," Williams said. "He is very familiar with this area in terms of recruiting, especially Houston, and that was a big factor for us."

Among his honors at Dobie was winning the district coach of the year award three times, being tabbed a coach for the Houston area all-star series, and a coach in the United States Junior Olympic trials.

In his five years at Dobie, Pierce produced three all-state players, 36 all-district stars, and 10 players who went on to perform at the college level. His star pupil at Dobie was former college all-America Shane Nance, who went on to pitch the major leagues for the Milwaukee Brewers.

"Bearkat baseball has been honored by the number of outstanding candidates for the head baseball coach position," former head coach Mark Johnson said. "Bobby Williams was very diligent in this very tough decision. David Pierce will be an outstanding coach. His resume is very impressive, and he has a track record associated with winning teams both in high school and at the NCAA level. It will be exciting to watch Bearkat baseball continue to grow under his tutelage."

Other coaching stops were at Episcopal and St. Pius X, both high schools in Houston. He also worked as a batting practice pitcher for the Houston Astros from 1994 through 2000.

He rejoined the college coaching ranks at Houston in 2001. He helped coach the Cougars to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in his first season. In his second year, he helped take the team further with an NCAA Super Regional appearance, a game away from the College World Series.

Pierce's playing career began at St. Pius X High School in Houston. He then went on to Wharton County Junior College (1982-83) and the University of Houston (1984-85). He helped pace the Cougars to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a senior in 1985. He completed his degree at Houston in 1988.

Pierce (48) and his wife Susan have two children, Chelsea (21) and Shea (18).