Herd Insider Columnist Steve Cotton previews the spring season
Head coach Jeff Waggoner enters his ninthseason at the helm of the Marshall baseball program. In eight seasons, he has compiled a 177-256-1record along with a birth to the Conference USA Championship in 2008. His 177 victories are the secondmost in program history.
After the 2013 season, Waggoner saw two Thundering Herd players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. A total of 12 players were selected over the last three seasons, while 26 of his student-athletes have received an opportunity to play professional baseball under his tutelage. Aaron Blair (first supplemental round - 36th overall - to the Arizona Diamondbacks) and Isaac Ballou (15th round to the Washington Nationals), the 2013 draftees, became the 14th and 15th members of the Herd to be selected after serving on one of Waggoner's teams.
One year prior, pitchers Joe Church (17th round to the San Diego Padres) and Mike Mason (24th round to the Colorado Rockies) were selected.
Waggoner's last three teams have produced All-Conference performers, with Blair and Ballou garnering All-Conference USA first team honors in 2013 after Blair and Sergio Leon were named All-Freshmen in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The 2011 season featured eight players who would go on to be drafted by MLB teams and two players who were signed as free agents. Greg Willams (Texas Rangers), Mike Mason (Texas Rangers), Joe Church (Los Angeles Angels), Isaac Ballou (Pittsburgh Pirates), Kenny Socorro (Chicago Cubs), Arik Sikula (Toronto Blue Jays), Shane Farell (Toronto Blue Jays), Rhett Stafford (Oakland Athletics) were each drafted in the 2011 MLB, marking the most drafted players in a season in Marshall baseball history. Victor Gomez (Atlanta Braves) and Ian Kadish (Toronto Blue Jays) were also picked up by big league teams as free agents.
Along with the most drafted players in a season, Waggoner's club had four players earn Conference USA honors. Kenny Socorro was selected to the All-Conference USA team as an infielder and freshman, Aaron Blair, was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team. Kyle Blank and Arik Sikula both earned academic recognition through the conference, after being picked to the Conference USA All-Academic team.
A total of 41 records have been broken under Waggoner, including 23 team and 18 individual marks. Waggoner has also posted victories against 13 ranked opponents, including knocking off then No. 1 Rice in 2009. In 2010, MU defeated No. 17 Ohio State and No. 25 Rice during the regular season. In 2012, Waggoner led Marshall to a senior day victory over No. 13 UCF. In 2013, his squad topped No. 19 Houston in games one and two of a three-game series.
In 2007, during his second season at Marshall, Waggoner led the Herd to 30 wins, the most in program history. The Herd notched a 30-30-1 overall record and finished sixth in C-USA with a 10-13-1 mark, and a berth in the 2008 Entergy C-USA Baseball Championship tournament hosted by Tulane.
At the tournament, Marshall defeated third-seeded Tulane twice, and second-seeded Southern Miss twice, before falling to Houston in the championship game, 3-2. All three of those teams were NCAA Regional participants in 2008, while the Herd finished one run shy of its first NCAA Regional appearance since 1978. For his efforts, Waggoner was named All-Pavlovich Team Coach of the Year in "Collegiate Baseball" Newspaper.
During his seven seasons with the Herd, 24 Marshall players/signees have been given a chance to play at the professional level. In the 2010 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Kevin Shackelford, Ryan Kiel and Aaron Blair were selected. Other notable players drafted include Steven Blevins, Tommy Johnson and Nate Lape in 2008, while Eddie Rush and Dan Straily were picked in 2009.
Straily is one of a dozen currently playing at the next level and has made his way into the Major Leagues. The right-handed arm spent two seasons at Double-A Midland before being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento during the summer of 2012. Straily ultimately received a call from the Oakland Athletics and pitched in 39.1 innings over seven starts at the conclusion of the 2012 season before becoming a regular member of the A's rotation in 2013.
Prior to the 2010 campaign, the Herd placed three players (Blevins, Lape and Gomez) on All-C-USA teams, while two (Lape and Gomez) were named to all All-Mideast Region squads. Adam Yeager, Gomez and Lape have all played summer ball in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League.
In his first season with the Herd, Waggoner led the squad to a 21-32 record which included a 15-11 mark at home. The Alliance Ohio native helped lead Marshall to a 5-18 record in C-USA picking up series wins against both Memphis and Houston, and picked up a win against UCF.
Before taking over the head coaching position at Marshall, Waggoner spent two seasons as an assistant with the nationally-ranked North Carolina State University Wolfpack.
While with the Wolfpack, Waggoner was a part of two N.C. State teams that had a combined record of 81-41 and played in two NCAA tournaments. In 2006, N.C. State finished second in the ACC Tournament and was runner up in the NCAA Austin Regional. The Wolfpack ranked as high as seventh in the nation that season while finishing third nationally in hitting (.333) and second in the ACC in fielding percentage (.970). A total of six players were named to All-ACC teams, with two (Ramon Corona and Matt Camp) claiming All-America honors.
Waggoner's responsibilities with the Wolfpack included player development, recruiting, academic support, travel and directing N.C. State's summer baseball camps.
Before his arrival in Raleigh, Waggoner spent two seasons at Kent State University. The Golden Flashes captured the 2004 MAC Tournament Championship during his tenure and also had seven players selected in the Major League Baseball draft, including first round draft pick Emmanuel Burriss who now plays for the San Fransisco Giants.
He was also an assistant coach at George Washington University from 2000-02, where he helped guide the Colonials to a school record for wins in a season (42) and the Atlantic 10 championship in 2002. George Washington led the A-10 and was among the national leaders in both batting average (.326) and home runs (91) that season. The Colonials posted a two-year record of 80-45 during Waggoner's stay, and five GW players were selected in the MLB draft.
Before his two years at George Washington, Waggoner spent the 2000 season at the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., helping St. Rose earn a berth in the Division II College World Series in 2000.
Waggoner has worked with two collegiate summer baseball teams. He was the head coach of the Arlington Senators of the Clark Griffith League in 2002, guiding the Senators to a 32-10 regular-season record, the Clark Griffith League championship, and the All-American Amateur Baseball Association (AAABA) national championship. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach for the Schenectady Mohawks of the New York Collegiate League in 1999 and 2000.
Waggoner lettered two years as a catcher at Cleveland State University, and graduated with a sport management degree in 1998. He played two years at Crowder College in Neosho, Mo., prior to transferring to Cleveland State.
Waggoner received his master's degree in Educational Psychology from St. Rose in 2001. He has two daughters, Kacee and Madelyn.