HUNTSVILLE – Following a record-setting season, Sam Houston State baseball has elevated one assistant coach and brought another familiar face back to the program, head coach Matt Deggs announced Thursday.

After three years with the squad, pitching coach Jay Sirianni has been promoted to associate head coach. The former Nebraska standout on the mound has tutored two of the top three Bearkat pitching staffs for strikeouts in a season including a team-best 522 in 2017.

Sam Houston led the Southland Conference in earned run average (3.80), strikeouts (522) and saves (20) while finishing second in opponent batting average (.258) in 2017. The success came during a season in which the bullpen featured eight first-year players including six freshmen.

“I’ve known Jay for 20-plus years,” Deggs said. “He was a tremendous pitcher with the University of Nebraska. He played in the Cleveland Indians organization and when he retired from baseball he’s been one of the top pitching coaches in the country. He’s a great communicator and is very organized. He does everything in the office from academics to admissions to housing. He’s absolutely the man behind everything that goes on here. I am very proud for him. He’s earned this opportunity through years of hard work to be associate head coach here. We are super proud and blessed to have Jay, Erin and their beautiful kids in our program.”

Meanwhile, after one season as head coach at Northeast Texas Community College, Shane Wedd makes his return to Huntsville where he will serve as hitting and infield coach. The former team captain at the University of Kansas worked as a volunteer assistant with the Bearkats from 2015-16.

“It’s gigantic to get coach Wedd back,” Deggs said. “He has been such an integral part of what we’ve done over the last three years from a coaching standpoint to a camp organization standpoint to the energy and passion he brings to the table every day. We had the opportunity to bring him back here and that was the first phone call we made. We’re very blessed and honored that he would come back here.”

Sam Houston also returns assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Lance Harvell, who enters his fourth season with the program in 2018. The Texas A&M graduate has spent three stints with Deggs including time with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and Aggies.

“Coach Harvell is my right-hand man,” Deggs said. “We’ve been together since 2005. He’s a foot soldier and grinds it out every day from the recruiting trail to making sure we’re organized in every way. The kids love him and obviously, I love him. The job he has done on the recruiting trail speaks for itself. He is directly behind the success we’ve had here.”

PITCHING THRIVES UNDER SIRIANNI
Sam Houston’s success on the field the last two seasons – highlighted by the program’s first NCAA Super Regional appearance – has been in direct correlation with the surge on the mound.

The Bearkats have boasted a Freshman All-American on the mound each of the last two seasons while right-hander Heath Donica was tabbed Third-Team All-America a year ago. Each of the past two years, a Sam Houston closer has logged 13 saves courtesy of Angels draft selection Greg Belton and freshman Nick Mikolajchak.

“I’d like to thank Dr. Hoyt, Coach Williams and especially Matt for making this opportunity come true,” Sirianni said. “Sam Houston State is a special university. It’s been very good to me and my family. I can’t explain how much fun it is to come to work here let alone with my three best friends every day.”

WEDD RETURNS AFTER TURNAROUND SEASON AT NORTHEAST TEXAS
Wedd makes his return to Huntsville after leading Northeast Texas Community College to a turnaround season in 2017. The Eagles doubled their win total from the previous season. Offensively, the squad hit 40 more home runs from 2016 while the pitching staff lowered its ERA two points.

“It was tough to leave but I was chasing something I really wanted to do,” Wedd said. “My relationship with this place is what drew me back ... the relationship with the players, school and community and above all, I get to come to work with my best friends every day. I am excited to be back. It’s almost like I never left. It was a positive move for me professionally and for my family. For us, this is home. My wife is from here. It was a no brainer move for us.”

The Lawrence, Kansas, native served as volunteer assistant with the Kats in 2015 and 2016, helping the squad to back-to-back Southland Conference Tournament title appearances. During 2016, the squad won the league regular season and tournament championship for the first time in team lore.