Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
Middle Tennessee State University announced Jim Toman as the next head coach for the Blue Raider baseball team on Wednesday.
After a six-year tenure with the Blue Raiders that saw former head coach Jim McGuire post a 162-175-1 record, it was decided that his contract would not be renewed.
This paved the way for an extensive coaching search that led MTSU to Toman.
“I’ve always known that this is a good program,” says Coach Toman on what made him pick MTSU. “It has good tradition here. I had other opportunities that I never pursued. I was waiting for this one.”
He also credits his relationship with MTSU Athletic Director Chris Massaro as another factor for why he chose to join the Raider family. The pair previously worked together at the University of South Carolina.
Toman joins a program that finished 27-27-1 and fell to 10th place in the Conference-USA standings in 2018, their best finish since 2015 where they went 30-25.
The team has not made a post-season appearance since 2015 and have struggled in conference play going 27-61-1 in C-USA play since 2016.
Several key players from last season’s squad are also gone, either due to graduating or being drafted by the MLB and decided to go pro instead.
Juniors L.A. Woodard and Austin Dennis were both drafted, in the 16th and 20th rounds respectively, with a year of eligibility left at the collegiate level.
Several notable seniors have also departed from the team such as Aaron Aucker, who made the All-C-USA team, pitcher Jake Wyrick, who was drafted in the 30th round and Ryan Kemp, one of the top batters on the team.
In fact this team will be returning several more pitchers than hitters, and this could potentially be an issue that Toman will have to address. As a whole, the team hoisted a collective 6.47 ERA last year.
Coach Toman is taking it all in stride and seems to be looking forward to the challenge.
“I need to do a little roster management and look at the stats,” Toman said. “They had some good wins last season. We’re going to bring in some big strong hitters and a couple of sidearm guys who let the ball sink. We’re going to focus on getting some good pitchers in here and a good pitching coach who can coach them up.”
Toman has quite the extensive resume as both a player and a coach. He played college baseball at N.C. State where he was a four-year letter-winner for the Wolfpack and served as a team captain his junior and senior year.
Shortly after graduating, he began his coaching career at Richmond High School in Rockingham, North Carolina as an assistant coach.
In 1989, he started his collegiate coaching career with a one-year stint at FIU before moving back to his alma mater as an assistant coach.
He stayed at N.C. State until 1997 when he became the associate head coach for South Carolina where his talents for recruiting became apparent.
In his time at South Carolina, the Gamecocks managed to secure eleven top 25 recruiting classes. He won Assistant Coach of the Year in 2002.
From 2003-2006, three of the four recruiting classes were ranked number one in the nation.
Several of the players from his 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes (his last season with South Carolina) would go on to win the national championship in both 2010 and 2011.
He left South Carolina in 2008 to become the head coach for Liberty University, and his winning ways followed him there.
Under Toman, the Flames never had a losing season. In fact, they posted nine straight thirty plus winning seasons, winning more than forty games three times in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
In 2013, Toman led the Flames to their first Big South Conference title since 2000 and eventually to the third seed in the NCAA tournament.
In 2014 he was named the Big South Coach of the Year.
In his nine years at Liberty, Toman posted a 329-205-1 record, the fastest coach to reach the 300-win mark in program history. In conference play, his 147-79 record is the highest winning percentage of any coach in program history.
On top of his solid track record as a coach and recruiter, Toman has also proven himself to be a great player developer as well. He has had 118 players drafted, with 13 of them making it to the major leagues. He has also produced 33 All-Americans in his time as a coach.
He has big plans for MTSU and seems to be up for the task of rebuilding this program.
“I want to be on the mound on the last game in a dog pile in Omaha,” says Toman, indicating he wants to win a national title with this program.
Given the condition of the program over the past few seasons, Toman seems like the perfect candidate for turning the ship around at Middle Tennessee.
To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email firstname.lastname@example.org.