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ULM adds Justin Hill and Jim Rushworth to Coaching Staff

MONROE, La. – ULM baseball head coach Jeff Schexnaider announced Monday the hiring of Justin Hill and Jim Rushworth as assistant coaches on the Warhawks staff. Hill will assume the role of pitching coach while Rushworth will be ULM’s volunteer assistant coach. Both hires are pending final approval by the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors.

Hill began his coaching career as an assistant under Schexnaider at West Monroe High School in 2003 and was a player on the 1996 Rebel squad that was coached by both Schexnaider and Rushworth; the 1996 team advanced to the Louisiana State Championship Game.

“Anytime you lose a coach you wonder about replacing them because they have done such a great job,” Schexnaider said. “Lantz Wheeler and Matt Collins both did great jobs and I feel so fortunate in this case that I got two guys that I’ve worked with before. It is an advantage to have guys that have played for you and coached with you because they know your system and they know what you are all about. It makes the transition a lot easier.

“Justin has been very successful in all his endeavors and has proved to be one of the top recruiters in the state and the South,” Schexnaider said. “His connections in the state will be a tremendous asset to us in addition to his work ethic.

“Jim coached with me at West Monroe and we have been friends for a long time,” Schexnaider said. “He has been successful every he has been. For us to have the opportunity to get a volunteer assistant with his experience is very uncommon, and I think it will help our program tremendously.”

Hill just completed his fourth season as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions averaged 36 wins per year during his tenure, including a school record 40-win season in 2010 – SLU opened the season 11-0 which included a season opening sweep of Mississippi State. SLU was ranked for a Southland Conference record eight straight weeks and peaked at No. 17 after winning 22 of its first 25 games.

Eight Southeastern Louisiana players were drafted during Hill’s tenure and a total of 24 players coached by Hill during his career have been selected in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.

Under Hill’s guidance, the Lions ranked among the best pitching staffs in the Southland Conference. In 2011, SLU finished the year with a staff ERA of 3.91 and walked a league-low 159 batters in 494.2 innings (2.9/9 innings). Tyler Watkins was named the Louisiana Pitcher of the Year after going 10-4 with a 3.26 ERA. The 2010 staff put together a 4.29 ERA (before the bats were deadened) and issued just 3.4 walks per nine innings.

The 2008 Lion pitching staff led the Southland Conference in team ERA (4.26) and strikeouts (481) while also taking the individual crowns in both categories. That year, Wade Miley became the highest drafted student-athlete in school history when the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him with the 43rd overall pick in the 2008 MLB First Year Player Draft.

The 2009 staff saw the emergence of reliever Chris Franklin as one of the top closers in the country as the junior set a school record with 12 saves and earned All-America honors. For the third consecutive year, SLU produced an All-American as Jordan Hymel earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors by finishing 7-1 on the mound in 2010.

Hill spent the 2007 season at Sam Houston State and helped oversee a team that went 40-24, won the Southland Conference Tournament, and advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals against Ole Miss after SHSU eliminated Southern Miss and Troy. The Bearkats posted the most wins by the program in 20 years, broke or tied 16 all-time program records and produced nine All-Southland Conference selections and two first team All-Americans.

With Hill’s help Bearkat closer Luke Prihoda won the 2007 NCBWA Stopper of the Year award. Prihoda posted a 7-3 record with a 1.16 ERA, broke the school and conference record for saves, and led the nation with 18 saves. He was also named a first team All-American, the Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, and the SLC Student-Athlete of the Year.

Hill spent the 2006 season at LSU as an assistant coach under Smoke Laval. The Tigers finished 35-24 in Hill’s lone season in Baton Rouge, producing three Major League draft picks, a free agent signee, and a freshman All-American.

He spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons on current Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard’s staff at Northwestern State. In 2005, the Demons went 41-20, won the Southland Conference Championship, and earned an at-large bid to the 2005 NCAA Regionals in Baton Rouge. The 2005 Demons produced two freshmen All-Americans and two Major League draft picks.

During his playing days, Hill pitched at LSU for the legendary Skip Bertman. A two-year letterwinner and academic All-SEC performer in 2001, Hill was also part of the Tigers’ 2001 and 2002 NCAA Regional Championship teams.

The West Monroe native graduated from LSU in 2002 and earned his master’s degree from Northwestern State in 2005.

Rushworth joins the ULM staff after a three-year stint at Sterlington High School where he served as the Panthers’ head coach the last two seasons. Sterlington advanced to the Louisiana 2A State Championship Game in 2009 and 2010 under Rushworth’s leadership.

Prior to Sterlington, Rushworth was the head coach at Leesville High School from 2004-08. Among the standout players he groomed at Leesville was pitcher Justin Cryer who went on to play at Ole Miss before being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Rushworth spent four seasons (2000-03) at DeRidder High School where he coached MLB fourth-round draft pick Josh Rainwater. He began his high school head coaching career in 1999 with his first stint at Leesville following one year at Panola Junior College (1997) and one year at West Monroe High School (1996).

He played professionally for the Montreal Expos organization from 1991 to 1996 after posting a 5-1 record with a 3.35 ERA at Florida State in 1991. Before becoming a Seminole, Rushworth pitched at Panola JC. He graduated from ULM in 1998.

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