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Copeland Pitches His Way to Top of Appalachian League Stats
Ryan Copeland's dream of playing professional baseball became reality June 9, when the former Illinois State pitcher was selected in the 32nd round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He was assigned to the Cardinals' rookie-advanced league affiliate, the Johnson City, Tenn., Cardinals. As of Monday, August 2, Copeland's record is 5-0. He has the lowest ERA in the Appalachian League at 1.49 and the third-lowest ERA among all rookie leaguers. The Des Plaines, Ill., native is tied for the most wins in the Appalachian League, and he has allowed the fewest hits (23), runs (7) and earned runs (6).
Incoming Freshmen Turn Down Major League Baseball Offers
All three incoming Illinois State freshmen selected in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft have turned down their professional offers to instead play for the Redbirds. Catcher Mike Hollenbeck, pitcher Johnny Lieske and infielder Brock Stewart allowed Monday's 11:00 p.m. CT MLB Draft deadline to pass without signing professional contracts. They will begin classes at ISU next week.
Head Coach: Illinois State University
In his first four seasons as a head coach, Mark Kingston has twice been named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, has won a pair of MVC Championships and has twice broken single-season school win records. Kingston has also amassed four-consecutive 30+ win seasons for the first time in Illinois State history. Additionally, 24 Redbirds have earned all-MVC honors and eight have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Additionally, for the second consecutive season Kingston was named a "Rising College Coach" by Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA.
Kingston was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 after guiding Illinois State to its best regular season in school history. The Redbirds won a program-best 39 games, which included a school-record 12-game winning streak, won the Missouri Valley Conference outright for the first time in school history and set a Valley-record with eight First-Team All-MVC players. Offensively, ISU paced the MVC in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs. The pitching staff had the single most dominant season in school history, firing a program-record 13 complete-games, including 10 shutouts. The Redbirds tallied a Valley-low 2.75 ERA in conference games and Chris Razo became the first pitcher in school history to be named Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year. A school-record four players were selected in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft as Chad Hinshaw (Los Angeles Angels), Brett Kay (San Francisco Giants), Chris Razo (Milwaukee Brewers) and Eric Aguilera (Los Angeles Angels) earned professional contracts.
Illinois State's 33-19 record in 2012 was highlighted by a ten-game winning streak, a complete six-game sweep of the Russ Matt Central Florida Invitational and Kingston's 100th career victory as head coach. The winning streak matched the longest winning streak ISU baseball has had since 1984, and just one victory shy of the all-time win streak set in 1976. Kingston's 100th career victory came in opening round action of the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Championship when ISU defeated Evansville, 10-3, in Springfield, Mo. Closer Kenny Long was selected by the Houston Astros in the 22nd round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, marking three-consecutive seasons in which a Redbird was selected in the MLB draft.
"This is a guy that I think would have been a fit at any of the top programs in the country looking for a head coach," Fitt said. "There's a lot of work to be done, but I think the foundation is there with the facilities improvements. It sounds like the perfect storm really. You can contend for a national title in the Missouri Valley Conference - and Wichita State has proven that. You need to have the right mix of a good coaching staff and quality facilities and it looks like Illinois State is going down the right road there."
Assistant Coach: Illinois State University
Mike Current's hard work and persistent effort has led to steady gains for the Illinois State baseball program over the past eight years. Current assists in all aspects of the program and works particularly with the outfielders and hitters. He also coordinates Illinois State's baseball camps and assists with recruiting.
Since the Bloomington, Ill., native joined the Redbirds' coaching staff in 2006, Current has helped coach a pair of Missouri Valley Conference champion teams, and the Redbirds have twice set program-win records.
The 2013 Redbirds set a program-record with 39 wins and won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship outright for the first time in school history. The historic team set a Missouri Valley Conference record with eight First-Team All-MVC selections.
"After working with Mike throughout the past year, it became a priority to keep him on staff. He is very knowledgeable, and a tireless worker. He has a great future in this game and we are lucky to have him on this coaching staff."
Associate Head Coach: Illinois State University
Bo Durkac returns to Illinois State in 2014 for his fifth season on Mark Kingston's coaching staff, and his second as associate head coach. His responsibilities include spearheading recruiting, as well as working with ISU hitters and infielders. Durkac's experience includes seven seasons as the hitting coach at Charlotte and seven years of professional playing spanning the globe.
In 2013, Durkac helped guide the most successful regular season in Illinois State baseball history, as the Redbirds won a program-record 39 games and the first outright Missouri Valley Conference title in school history. Offensively, Illinois State led the MVC in batting average (.293), on-base percentage (.388), slugging percentage (.403) and home runs (29) and averaged 6.2 runs-per-game. Additionally, five position players were named First-Team All-Missouri Valley Conference. Durkac oversaw a pair of four-year Redbirds who were drafted the 2013 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, helping mold Brett Kay (San Francisco Giants), winner of the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Most Valuable Player award, and Chad Hinshaw (Los Angeles Angels), Illinois State's all-time stolen base leader.
Under Durkac's guidance, the 2012 Illinois State offense was one of the most potent in NCAA Division I baseball. The offense averaged 6.9 runs-per-game, good for 12thnationally, and led the led the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.386) while finishing second in slugging percentage (.426).
"Having Bo join our staff is an important step in elevating our program. He is an extremely intelligent and talented coach. He takes tremendous pride in developing student-athletes and has had great success as both a player and coach. His work with the position players at Charlotte led to NCAA appearances and numerous professional draft picks. Our players will benefit greatly as a result of his addition."
Assistant Coach: Illinois State University
Entering his fifth season on the Illinois State coaching staff, Bill Mohl will look to build off the most successful regular season in Illinois State baseball history. Mohl returns to Normal in his role guiding Redbird pitchers while assisting in recruiting efforts. 2014 will mark the eighth season that the former Tulane pitcher will be a NCAA assistant coach. Since joining the Illinois State coaching staff, Mohl has guided 11 Redbird pitchers to All-Missouri Valley Conference accolades.
The 2013 Illinois State Redbirds utilized dominant pitching en route to a program-record 39 wins and the first outright Missouri Valley Conference title in school history. Under Mohl's guidance, the Redbird pitching staff posted the lowest earned run average of all Valley teams in conference games (2.75), going 16-5 with seven complete-games, including five shutouts. On the season, Illinois State fired 13 total complete-games, with 10 shutouts, good for third best among all NCAA Division I schools. Mohl helped Chris Razo earn the first Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year award in Illinois State history. Razo, who opened the season 4-for-4 in save opportunities as closer, transitioned to starter, finishing the year 8-2 with a 1.71 ERA. The senior right-hander fired five complete-games in 11 starts and defeated fellow Major League Baseball Draft selections Sean Manaea of Indiana State and Nick Petree of Missouri State in consecutive Valley starts. Razo was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft. Dan Savas, who missed all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery, returned to action going 10-0 with a 1.79 ERA and 98 strike outs in 100.1 innings of work. In the bullpen, Jeremy Rhoades settled in as closer, going 2-1 with a 1.54 ERA and six saves over 26 appearances. Newcomers Steve Heilenbach (1-0, 0.52 ERA in 17.1 IP), David Suarez (3.31 ERA in 16.1 IP) and Will Headean (51 strike outs in 55.2 IP) all excelled under Mohl.
Mohl was a recipient of the 2013 Tom Walter College Baseball Inspiration Award, which is presented annually by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Mohl's wife, Sarah, was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer in August of 2012. While she received treatment, Mohl began raising money to fund cancer research. Four weeks into the 2013 regular season, Mohl notified the team that he needed to leave to be by her side. That night, Illinois State rallied for a 17-6 win over No. 28 Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Sarah passed away on March 25, 2013. Mohl returned to the team April 5 and Illinois State responded by winning 24 of its final 28 games en route to the first outright Missouri Valley Conference title in school history. Off the field, Mohl dedicated his time and energy to raising awareness for cancer research. The Redbird baseball program raised $12,000 for the Vs. Cancer Foundation, a charity that raises money for childhood cancer research, and the entire roster shaved their heads to support the cause. Additionally, Mohl has raised more than $25,000 for cancer reach through Pelotonia, a non-profit organization that funds cancer research.
"I've known Billy since he was one of the top prospects in the country coming out of high school He has a great passion for pitching and relates very well to student-athletes. He studies pitching and enjoys teaching it about as much as any coach I have been around. Our pitchers will definitely reach their potential as a result of working with him every day."