FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
LAKE CHARLES – Justin Hill, a 10-year coaching veteran in the college ranks including the last five years as an associate head coach at Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe, has been named the 13th baseball head coach for McNeese, announced by athletic director Tommy McClelland on Friday.
Hill, 33, replaces Terry Burrows who resigned following the 2013 season.
A West Monroe native, Hill has spent the past several years learning from some of the best head coaches in college baseball, including legendary coaches Skip Bertman and Mark Johnson, former Southeastern Louisiana head coach Jay Artigues, and current Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard and ULM head coach Jeff Schexnaider.
“It is a true honor to be the next head coach at McNeese,” said Hill. “I have always admired the tradition they have from a distance. As an opponent, it was always a difficult challenge competing against the Cowboys, especially in Lake Charles. There has always been a decided home-field advantage when you play McNeese.
“McNeese, Lake Charles and the entire Southwest area of Louisiana have always had a great passion for baseball. There are high expectations here and I’m looking forward to meeting those head-on.
“Our plan is to win and win right now. We want to put out kids in the best possible situation to be successful on and off the field. We want to be fun to watch. We are going to compete hard on the field and do things right off of it. I want our players and coaches to be visible in the community as much as we can.”
Said McClelland: “Justin is a coach that has caught my eye over the years. Everywhere he goes success seems to follow. He has a great understanding of recruiting Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi and that is a major component to winning at McNeese. He is not only a proven coach, but he is also a man of high integrity and character and will be a great addition to the McNeese family.”
“The number of McNeese alumni and supporters is astounding,” said Hill. “They love their school. I am looking forward to letting them get to know me and my family. We want to earn their trust and respect. This program meant a lot to them and I want to show them how much it means to me.”
Throughout his young career, Hill has coached or recruited 33 players that have gone on to play in the professional ranks (28 drafted and 5 signing as free agents), 12 All-Americans, two conference players of the year, two NCBWA Stoppers of the Year, a conference pitcher of the year, relief pitcher of the year, freshman of the year, conference tournament MVP, and a Louisiana pitcher of the year.
Hill comes to McNeese after serving the last two seasons as the associate head coach at Louisiana-Monroe.
In his first year at ULM, Hill coached a pitching staff that produced a 4.35 team earned run average, the lowest total in over a decade and over a full run lower than the previous year. The 2012 staff also broke the school record with 554.2 innings pitched. Junior starter Randy Ziegler was named to the All-SBC Second Team, and reliever Wil Browning was named the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Baseball tournament Most Outstanding Performer. Both Ziegler and Browning entered the professional baseball ranks after the season, with Ziegler getting drafted by the San Francisco Giants and Browning signing with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hill spent four seasons 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.
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). 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.
Hill began his coaching career in 2003 at his alma mater, West Monroe High School, as an assistant on current ULM head coach Jeff Schexnaider’s staff helping the Rebels to a district title.
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.
Hill appeared in 19 games in his final season at LSU, throwing 19 innings while compiling a 1-1 record with two saves and 27 strikeouts before a shoulder injury ended his season.
Hill began his playing career at Mississippi Delta Community College before transferring to Bossier Parish Community College.
At BPCC, Hill recorded a 7-2 mark and a 3.74 ERA with a school-record 102 strikeouts in 77 innings, while limiting opponents to a .199 batting average. He was an All-Region 23 and All-conference performer and was also a member of the Dean’s List.
The West Monroe native graduated from LSU in 2002 and earned his master’s degree from Northwestern State in 2005.
Hill is married to the former Melissa Rawls. The couple has two daughters Lily (4) and Rylie (1).
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT JUSTIN HILL
Mark Johnson, former Texas A&M and Sam Houston State Head Coach and a member of the ABCA Coaches Hall of Fame and Texas Baseball Hall of Fame
“It’s a great hire for McNeese. He’s (Hill) an outstanding person and that’s what you hire, then hope he’s a good baseball coach. And with Justin, you’re getting both. He’s a strong character person and a man of integrity. He’s high energy and an outstanding baseball man. He’s had the advantage of being in various baseball programs and has been around a few different head coaches, all who have been a great influence on him. I see nothing but good things for McNeese. He will do well and will represent the university extremely well.”
Jay Artigues, former Southeastern Louisiana Head Coach and current Interim AD
“I couldn’t be more excited than this opportunity for Justin. He’s the kind of young man that’s going to bring a lot of excitement to the program and community. He’s a true professional and really cares about his kids and they’ll see that on and off the field. He’ll have those players doing the right things in the classroom and in the community. He’s the kind of young man that I’d love to have my kids play for one day.”
Mitch Gaspard, current Alabama and former Northwestern State Head Coach
“Tommy did a great job in finding a rising star in the coaching business and a guy that has been around the Southland Conference and knows the league. He has great experience as a pitching coach and a recruiter and has done a great job in both. He’s ready to take that next step and be a head coach. He’s a guy that has a lot of energy and will be passionate about the job. He’s someone that people will follow and that’s what you need in a head coach. I’m excited for Justin. McNeese has hired a really good coach and person.”
Jeff Schexnaider, current Louisiana-Monroe Head Coach
“I was fortunate enough to coach him in high school then he moved on and played and coaches for some very successful baseball programs. He possesses all of the characteristics of a great baseball coach. He’s very organized. He’s disciplined but fair and the kids relate well to him. He really knows the game. He’s coached at several programs for a lot of great leaders and he’s learned a lot. There’s no doubt he’ll be very successful.”