A few weeks removed from claiming a third consecutive Southland regular-season championship, Sam Houston State begins the search for a new head baseball coach.
David Pierce, who led the Bearkats to three straight NCAA Regional appearances for just the second time in school history, will join Tulane University this week.
“In the last eight years, the Sam Houston State baseball program has become one of the most competitive programs in the country,” said director of athletics Bobby Williams. “Mark Johnson and David Pierce elevated Sam Houston to a level it has never been before and the interest in the coaching vacancy is at an all-time high. We are going to work quickly to bring in our next head coach who can continue to take us places we have never been before.”
Starting with the foundation that Mark Johnson built, Sam Houston has played in the NCAA postseason in six of the last eight seasons, while winning three regular-season titles and three league tournament crowns.
The 121 victories in the last three seasons represent the most in any three-year stretch at the Division I level in school history. The Kats have gone head-to-head with and beaten several major programs in the state, including Baylor, Dallas Baptist, Houston, Rice, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Texas Tech.
“I want to thank Coach Pierce for what he has done not only for our department, but also for this university,” Williams said. “He has brought a level of visibility to Sam Houston State that previously had not been achieved by the baseball program. Participating in, and winning two games in the College Classic at Minute Maid Park in Houston was a huge lift for us and that would not have been possible without him.”
The Bearkats have been nationally ranked each of the last three seasons and reached their highest ranking in school history in 2014 – 16th in the Baseball America Poll. 2012 marked the first time that Sam Houston was ranked in the four major college baseball polls.
Senior catcher Anthony Azar became Sam Houston’s first athlete to be named Southland baseball player of the year, after hitting .368 with 49 RBI and 40 runs scored in 2014.
The Bearkat pitching staff was one of the best in the nation under Pierce’s direction with an earned run average ranking in the top-20 in the nation.
Pierce joined the Kats after nine seasons as an assistant at Rice. He served as hitting coach from 2003-2005. In his first season at Rice, the team hit .313 with 51 homeruns and 449 runs driven in on their way to the school’s first ever National Championship. As pitching coach from 2006-2011, he produced a pitching staff ranked in the top 30 in the NCAA in staff ERA for five years, including a No. 4 national mark in 2007.
It’s not just SHSU’s coaches that are in demand, as the program has sent eight players to the Major League Baseball Draft over the last three seasons. A school record five players were selected in the 2014 draft, with Tyler Eppler, Ryan O’Hearn, Corey Toups, Carter Burgess and Colt Atwood all getting the opportunity to play professional baseball.
“In addition to the facilities, and the recent history of not only making the regionals, but winning in the postseason as well, our location is perfect from a recruiting standpoint,” Williams said. “Texas is one of the top states in the country for baseball talent, and we are perfectly situated between Houston and Dallas to draw the top collegiate prospects.”