Henderson served as SIU’s interim head coach for the entire 2011 season after the passing of Dan Callahan on Nov. 15, 2010. Henderson becomes the seventh head coach in the history of the program.
“I am extremely honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to follow outstanding coaches such as [Richard] Itch Jones and Dan Callahan in leading Southern Illinois University Baseball,” Henderson said. “I would like to thank Chancellor Rita Cheng, Mario Moccia, Jason King and the rest of our administration for their support and I, along with our players and staff, look forward to adding to the great history and tradition of Saluki Baseball.”
Moccia praised Henderson’s ability to lead the team on and off the field. SIU had 15 student-athletes finish with grade point averages at or above 3.0 this past spring semester and the team’s 3.01 GPA was its highest for the spring in over 10 years.
“Coach Henderson did an excellent job of shepherding our team through Coach Cal’s illness and his ultimate passing,” Moccia said. “That was an emotional and difficult time, but everything I’ve seen from Ken since he took over the program points to brighter days ahead for Saluki Baseball.
“I was impressed that Coach took a young team that had lost a couple of key players to injury early in the season, yet finished with a winning record in conference play. Not only is the program improving on the field, but it is succeeding in the classroom and in the community, as well. I am confident Ken will continue moving Saluki Baseball forward.”
Henderson has been with the Saluki baseball program since the 1991 season. He was an assistant coach from 1991-92 and was promoted to associate head coach in 1993, a title he held until being named interim head coach for this past season. Henderson was also the interim head coach for the last 20 games of the 1994 season after Sam Riggleman resigned and before the hiring of Callahan. He led SIU to a 12-8 record in that stretch of the 1994 season.
The loyal Saluki and veteran coach guided Southern Illinois to a fifth-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2011, when the team was picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll. SIU did so without two of its top players in first baseman Chris Serritella and Lee Weld, who both missed the entire season with injuries. In addition, Aaron Snyder missed the majority of the season after he was projected to be a weekend starter for the Dawgs.
Serritella was a first team All-MVC selection in 2010 when he hit .374 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs and Weld was Southern’s top reliever two years ago when struck out a team-high 57 batters in 29 appearances.
In his one year running the ball club, Henderson proved his ability to develop All-Conference players.
Sophomore pitcher Cody Forsythe received first team All-MVC honors, as he led the league with a 2.08 ERA in the regular season. Forsythe became SIU’s first starting pitcher to receive first team All-Conference accolades since P.J. Finigan, Southern’s current pitching coach, in 2005. He only walked 11 of the 429 batters he faced in 2011 and ranked 10th nationally in fewest walks allowed per nine innings pitched.
Junior outfielder Jordan Sivertsen was Southern’s power threat at the dish and he received second team All-MVC accolades by belting nine homers and driving in 48 runs.
Sivertsen and Forsythe, along with the players returning from injuries, highlight a talented roster that returns for Henderson’s first season as head coach in 2012. Southern Illinois’ 2011 roster featured 27 players, 19 of which were freshmen or sophomores and the Salukis only lost three players from that team to graduation.
“Having lost only three seniors off of this year’s team, we have a talented and dedicated group of players returning for next season,” Henderson said. “We believe this group has built a foundation that will lead to a great deal of future success with Saluki Baseball.”