By Michael Coker, Black College Nines
Who are the best baseball head coaches at Historically Black College and University (HBCU) baseball programs? Look at the number of victories they’ve amassed in a short period. In that timeframe, these small school coaches in the HBCU ranks have knocked off top-ranked NCAA Division II and NAIA teams across the nation and each year their teams are getting better.
This year, the wins were piling up loud and clear. What is setting these HBCU Collegiate Baseball coaches apart from the rest? They do not have big-spending donors to upgrade their facilities to match the NCAAs. Instead, these program changers are doing great things with what each has to work with – a telling sign how much improved the players and the programs are growing.
There is a reason I call them HBCU Baseball Young Guns. Simply put, they are young brash and bright both on and off the baseball field. They are the next generation of coaches ready to compete at the next level, winning on a regular basis, plus scheduling and defeating top ranked top notched non-HBCUs teams.
Their student-athletes are motivated by the coach who believes in their potential to be the best, a common belief amongst athletic departments who appreciate their head coach and the coach support goes beyond the diamond. They are the driving force for hope not only being better ballplayers, better students, better people in general whose goals are to perform on their feet as well as in the classroom.
This commitment to excellence is what has endeared great confidence in the coach’s ability to raise the levels of expectations for its program, especially during the 2017 season. Small school HBCUs 28 times this past season defeated top 25 ranked NCAA DII and NAIA baseball teams. Edward Waters, Talladega, Jarvis Christian and Winston-Salem State each defeated six ranked teams during the 2017 season.,
The coach’s support and advice is what takes the play to an elevated level in practice and game day. These young guns are already household names among college baseball ranks in coaching.
Reginald Johnson, II, Edward Waters College (Age: 33)
In six seasons at the helm of the Edward Waters baseball program, Johnson has won 174 games including three-straight 30 plus games in the last three years (99-59 .627 winning percentage). Under Johnson’s direction, the Tigers claimed the 2015 and 2016 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Regular Season Championship. In 2016, EWC won the GCAC going 11-0 and set a program record for winning percentage in the 2016 season with a 31-13 record, a .705 winning percentage. Johnson is gradually building the Tigers into an HBCU Small School power through his tireless recruiting efforts. Helped take the program a step forward culminating this past season 35 wins tying a school record for most wins in a season missing the NAIA tournament by one game, losing in the A.I.I. conference tournament to Conference foe Talladega. At the conclusion of the 2016 season, Johnson was also named the Small College Division Coach of the Year by Black College Nines.
Julius McDougal, Stillman College (Age: 27)
A Claflin University baseball product, McDougal is making a name for himself by turning hidden gems into quality pitching prospects, then making mid-season moves of makeover positions changes leading his teams to win streaks like the 2016, 21 game streak which the entire nation took notice. Also included this past season, a 13-game winning streak. Starting as an assistant at Stillman, two years later in his coaching debut, a big upset in his first head coaching game defeating No. 1 ranked Mercyhurst to start the 2016 season. McDougal looks at what he’s doing and he’s willing to make adjustments to win and develop guys consistently. He’s certainly proved that he can do it.
Michael Holochuck, Jarvis Christian College (Age: 32)
Holochuck made an immediate impact on the Jarvis Christian offense upon joining the staff five years ago. He has elevated the program to new heights since taking over as head coach including four straight trips to the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) tournament, one of the top NAIA baseball conference. The Bulldogs were one win away from reaching the NAIA Tournament this past season only to lose both championship games to Louisiana State-Shreveport. Holochuck has won more than 153 games in his five years leading the Bulldog program including three 30 plus games in four seasons, going 33-27 this past 2017 season. Word is he is as good a hitting instructor as there is out there. Has passion, and such a level-headed coach to his student athletes. He’s such a natural fit for that institution.
Marcos Dominguez, Talladega College (Age: 25)
Dominguez has picked up Talladega were former head coach Will Ramos left off. Quickly transformed the Tornados into a national contender in his head coaching debut going 36-25 in his first season coaching team to the NAIA National Tournament. Leading his alma mater, the fiery young coach carried his hard-nosed approach to an 11-1 record in the regular season in the GCAC this past season. I was very impressed with his approach to the game, how his players approach the game and they play with a ton of emotion. They get their work in before the game. That tells me a lot about a program and its head coach, named the Small College Division Coach of the Year by Black College Nines, an up-and-coming star.
CJ Bilbrey, Harris-Stowe State University (Age: 32)
In Bilbrey’s first season coaching Harris-Stowe State, he guided the Hornets to an 18-33 season which marked the program’s highest win total since 2012. In 2017, Bilbrey led his alma mater to a 30-19 season in his second season. He has done a heck of a job and he’s been getting out there aggressively recruiting. Confident, he gets his student-athletes to works their tails off. The 30 wins are no fluke. The Hornets play in one of the toughest NAIA baseball conference, American Midwest Conference (AMC). Finished 13th in the nation with 118 stolen bases this past season.
Andrian Holloway, Selma University (Age: 34)
Since arriving at Selma, Holloway has led the Bulldogs to its seventh straight National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) playoff appearance. Named NCCAA South Region Coach of the Year for the 2017 season, has won 78 games in the last four years at Selma. Should have had 100 plus wins if not for the regional spring inclement weather. Some of the common ranked NAIA opponents Selma defeats are not willing for makeup dates. Holloway has built the baseball program into a baseball powerhouse. With only three prior postseason tournament appearances in its history before Holloway arrived, I’ve already witnessed how hard coach Holloway works. He brings kids in that make them better in terms of work ethic and preparation. Holloway philosophy. If you don’t stand out in the classroom, won’t excel on the field.
Kevin Ritsche, Winston-Salem State University (Age 38)
Ritsche has created the best baseball program in all of HBCU Baseball. Guided the Rams to 253 victories in seven seasons since arriving at Winston-Salem State, 30 plus wins every season, 35 or more wins in five of the last seven seasons including 6 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Champions, 6 NCAA Division II playoff appearances 2011-2015, 2017, top the 40-win mark in 2015 going 42-15. This past season record 39-19, one win away from reaching the NCAA DII World Series before losing to D-II national champion West Chester University in the South Regional championship game. Ritsche head coaching record of 253-133 overall (.655) and a 132-25 overall (.841) record against CIAA conference rival.