I’m trying to be upbeat about this weekend’s baseball series. Even so, while hoping for the best, I’m preparing for the worst. I’m not necessarily saying that David Perno is going to need a list of possible replacements for Brady Wiederhold, but, just in case Coach Perno feels the need to go out and get himself a new pitching coach this offseason, I figured it wouldn’t hurt for me to offer a few suggestions of fellows to whom he may want to place a phone call. In alphabetical order, these are they:
1. Derek Johnson (Vanderbilt): Through May 9, his Commodores ranked ninth in the NCAA in team earned run average. Coach Johnson, a 1994 graduate of Eastern Illinois, is young, but he already has distinguished himself by earning national pitching coach of the year honors in 2004. His ties to the Southeast include stints at Stetson and at Vanderbilt. Coach Johnson might be difficult to pry away from Nashville, as he recently was promoted to associate head coach, but Georgia has snagged assistant coaches from the Commodores before, and it would be worth getting into a bidding war for the services of a pitching coach whose staffs have led the SEC in ERA four times in a seven-season span.
2. Karl Kuhn (Virginia): Through May 9, his Cavaliers ranked tenth in the NCAA in team ERA. Coach Kuhn’s Wahoos routinely finish in the top fifteen nationally in earned run average, including four top three finishes in the five years from 2005 to 2009. In the two years just prior to 2010, Virginia was the only Division I team to finish in the NCAA top 20 in ERA, strikeouts, fewest hits allowed, and fewest walks allowed. Although Coach Kuhn has spent the last several years in ACC country, his ties to SEC territory include several seasons spent at Arkansas-Little Rock, Charleston Southern, and a couple of Sunshine State schools. He is a 1992 graduate of the University of Florida, but don’t hold that against him.
3. Drew Thomas (Coastal Carolina): Through May 9, his Chanticleers ranked fifth in the NCAA in team ERA. Although Coach Thomas has only been out of college since graduating from Illinois State in 1998, he has been a part of two Coastal Carolina clubs that hosted NCAA regionals as No. 1 seeds in 2007 and 2008. He, too, has ties to the region, as a current coach in the Palmetto State who previously worked in the Florida Collegiate Instructional League.
4. Roger Williams (Louisville): Coach Williams may be the last name on the list alphabetically, but he’d be my first choice, and I’m not alone in that regard. Through May 9, his Cardinals ranked eleventh in the NCAA in team ERA. During his first three seasons as the team’s pitching coach, U. of L. won its first regular-season Big East championship, consecutive conference tournament titles, and three straight NCAA tournament berths. In their last six games, all on the road, his Cardinals have posted two shutouts, given up two runs (in a ten-inning game) once, given up three runs once, and given up eleven runs in a 17-inning game. (Heck, we’ve given up more than that in one inning.) In addition to his longstanding regional ties to Kentucky and North Carolina, Coach Williams has experience in Athens, where he spent one season. The Diamond Dogs ended the spring in Omaha that year.
Once again, this is David Perno’s call to make, but he may find himself in need of making this very call, and, if he does, I want him to be ready. Does anyone else have any thoughts on whether Coach Perno ought to replace Coach Wiederhold, and, if so, with whom? Let me know in the comments below.