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JMU Assistant Jay Sullenger Resigns for New Career

HARRISONBURG, Va., Dec. 22, 2011 – Baseball associate head coach Jay Sullenger, who has served on Spanky McFarland’s staff for 11 of his 14 seasons as head coach, announced that he will step away from the program in order to pursue new opportunities.

“There’s no doubt we’re going to miss him,” noted McFarland upon Sullenger’s departure. “He was a big factor in getting this program up to the level that it’s at right now. But I remember when he was a young coach coming in here and getting started. This will present an opportunity for somebody else to come in here and get started. We’ll obviously miss him, but at the same time we’re happy for him and his new endeavor. We wish him all the success and happiness.”

The move coincides with a career change for Sullenger, who will begin a new endeavor as Minister of Recreation Outreach at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa with a future appointment as a pastor. He will work closely with the church’s recreation program, training the coaches and providing spiritual and physical development to the participants, both youth and adult.

Sullenger arrived at JMU for the 2001 season as a volunteer assistant coach and worked his way up the ranks. He spent his first three seasons in that role while completing his master’s degree in kinesiology at JMU. He was elevated to a paid assistant coach for the 2004 season and tapped as associate head coach in 2008.

“I have been abundantly blessed to work among the administration, coaches, support staff and student-athletes here at JMU,” Sullenger stated. “I returned to the Valley with my wife to begin a career in college coaching. My thought was to get a year of experience and start a family at some far away school. God clearly had other ideas. After completing 11 years in college athletics and seeing our four children join our family, His plan could not have been better.”

On the field, Sullenger occupied the third base coach’s box while also working closely with the offense. As associate head coach, he carried additional responsibilities off the field as the program’s recruiting coordinator while also assisting McFarland with scheduling and budget management.

Under Sullenger’s tutelage, the Dukes routinely ranked among Colonial Athletic Association leaders in various offensive categories. Most notably, that was the case for the 2011 season when JMU led the nation in slugging percentage (.517) and runs per game (8.9) en route to its second league championship and a trip to the NCAA regionals. The Dukes also led the nation in sacrifice flies (47) while ranking fourth in batting average (.319), sixth in hits (685), 20th in doubles (130), sixth in triples (27), third in home runs (80), second in stolen bases (155), 10th in walks (289), 19th in hit batters (85) and 20th for overall winning percentage (.689). JMU led the CAA in 17 different offensive categories.

In 2010, JMU ranked third in the CAA in slugging (.521), second in on-base percentage (.415), second in runs (435) and third in home runs (68). In 2009, the Dukes led the league in average (.330) and on-base percentage (.410) while ranking third in slugging percentage (.524). The 2008 CAA Champion Dukes ranked third in average (.319), slugging (.514) and RBIs (401). Madison was second in on-base percentage (.391) and home runs (65) in 2007. In 2006, the Dukes won the CAA regular season with a high-powered offense ranking first in batting (.324), first in on-base percentage (.411), second in slugging (.549), second in runs (516) and second in home runs (101).

As chief recruiter for the Dukes, Sullenger landed classes honored nationally by Collegiate Baseball four of the last five years as ranking among the top 100. Sixteen JMU hitters have signed professional contracts under Sullenger’s direction with the majority developed at JMU after going undrafted out of high school. Those players have included National Co-Player of the Year Kellen Kulbacki (2005-07), National Hitter of the Year and Johnny Bench winner Jake Lowery (2009-11) and two-time CAA Player of the Year Eddie Kim (2000-03). Joining those three as draft selections in the first 10 rounds were first baseman Steven Caseres (2007-08), shortstop Davis Stoneburner (2004-07) and outfielder Mike Butia (2002-04).

Sullenger began his collegiate career at Division II Florida Southern before then transferring closer to his Shenandoah Valley home at Division I Liberty University in Lynchburg. He was a Second Team All-Big South selection as a senior infielder at Liberty, and he was also an All-Tournament pick. He turned in the best season of his career as a senior, hitting .327 (50-for-153) with 12 doubles, five triples, two home runs and 26 stolen bases.

Sullenger worked one year for the Tampa Rays in facility and event management before beginning his coaching tenure with the Dukes. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management from Liberty in 2000 and his master’s in sports administration in 2002 at JMU. Jay and his wife, Erin, will move to Florida with their four children, Eli, Hannah, Reagan and Macy Grace.

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