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Head Coach: Sierra College
The 2010 season will be Rob Willson's eighth season as head coach at Sierra College and 18th overall as a California Community College head baseball coach. He feels extremely fortunate to have what he considers the best job in the country. He credits the faculty, support staff, administration, location and his assistant coaches for making this such a great job.
2009 was again successful on and off the field for Sierra College baseball as they are the only team in California to appear in 4 straight Elite 8 games. Sierra topped the 30 win mark for the fourth straight season. The Wolverines lost 27 players from their 2009 roster which will make the 2010 roster extremely inexperienced. Coach Willson is very proud of where all the players transferred including his starting infield. 3B Joe Bonfe signed a letter of intent with Pepperdine University but elected to skip school and sign a professional baseball contract with the New York Mets. SS Keith Jennette is playing at Oregon State. 2B Matt Foat is batting clean up for USC as a sophomore. 1B Chris Cottingham is at the University of Nevada and Pitching ace Jeremy Cole is also at the University of Nevada.
The 2008 season was a magical season for Willson and his Wolverines. Sierra College captured its first ever State Championship in baseball and set a school record with 39 wins. Many consider California Community College baseball to be the most competitive and difficult sport in which to capture a state title. Strong pitching, outstanding defense and timely hitting propelled the Wolverines to this championship. They defeated 4-time state champion Riverside Community College and Southwestern College of Chula Vista twice - including the winner take all state final game by the score of 6-2. Even more gratifying for Coach Willson is that the 2008 team continued the 5-year streak of graduating 100% of their sophomores to 4-year universities.
In 2007, Sierra reached the Elite 8 in California despite being a very young and inexperienced squad. The Wolverines finished 2nd in the highly competitive Big 7 Conference. Of the seven teams in the conference, five made the state playoffs and all five advanced to the Nor-Cal Super Regional. The '07 Wolverines tied a school record for wins in a season with 35, which was set by the 2006 team. Highlights from '07 include three players signing National Letters of Intent with College World Series teams. Also, for the fourth straight season, ALL sophomores on the 2007 roster transferred to 4-year universities, with many of them receiving scholarships.
In 2006, the Wolverine baseball team reached new heights with wins and earned a trip to the state Final Four. The previous school record of 27 wins was shattered as this group totaled 35 victories and advanced farther than any previous Sierra College team by reaching California's State Championships. Graduating from this team was sophomore centerfielder Chris Hopkins who went on to Oregon State in 2007. OSU captured the College World Series Title with Chris as their starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter.
Coach Willson came to Sierra College from Diablo Valley College, where he served as the Associate Head Coach for the 2001 and 2002 seasons. Prior to arriving at DVC, Coach Willson led his alma mater, Laney College of Oakland, to a Bay Valley Conference Championship in 1997, his first season at Laney, after they finished in last place the previous year. He also guided the Eagles to back-to-back 31 win seasons in 1999 and 2000. Laney made the 16 team state playoff field in three of the four years he was there.
The five years prior to coaching at Laney College, he was the head coach at City College of San Francisco. After 29 straight seasons with a winning percentage well under .500, the CCSF program enjoyed a championship season in 1995. The 1995 team was a very special team in winning 35 games, losing 9, and finishing 6th in the state of California. This accomplishment was even more impressive considering that CCSF does not have its own field. They play at Balboa Park in San Francisco, which does not have dugouts, bullpens, batting cages, outfield fences or a scoreboard. Even more impressive was the fact that all the sophomores transferred to a four-year university and five players from that '95 team were selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. Coach Willson continues to commend the players who attended CCSF in spite of the bleak facilities and horrible baseball weather. He would also like to recognize his first assistant coach at CCSF, Steve Wood. Steve and Rob met in 1991 and became very close and remain great friends today. Coach Wood and Coach Willson made a promise to the CCSF administration that they would put a winning team on the field and they did with Woods' pitching expertise.
Coach Willson was voted the 1995 California Community College Coach of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports Magazine. The 1996 season at CCSF was also a winning season. The Rams finished second in the tough Coast Conference and were a feisty opponent for the #1 seed College of the Sequoias in the state playoffs. In 1996, the California Coaches Association again honored Coach Willson as the California Community College State Coach of the Year.
The 1996 team also produced a Major League pitcher in Doug Davis. Davis was drafted in the 10th round out of CCSF and signed a contract with the Texas Rangers. Davis made his major league debut in 1998. In 2004, '05, '06 and '07 Doug Davis won 12 games or more for the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks and was ranked in the top 15 in the major leagues in ERA and strikeouts. In December 2006, he signed a three-year $22 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Coach Willson credits his one year he spent at Loyola Marymount University as an assistant coach in 1991 as his most valuable learning year in baseball. The Lions were ranked as high as #10 in the country at the Division I level and possessed 6 players who would eventually make a major league roster. Chris Smith was the 31 year-old head coach at Loyola and Coach Willson says he was one of the best coaches in Division I baseball, and a major influence in his coaching career. Smith is now a professional baseball scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As a player, Coach Willson played firstbase, outfield and pitched at Albany High School and firstbase at Laney College in Oakland. He feels his experience at Laney College and his Head Coach Tom Pearse changed his baseball career. He still stays in touch with many of his teammates and Coach Pearse. That was a very close team with people from all different backgrounds and they came together like a solid family. In both years Rob played at Laney, they were fortunate enough to win the Golden Gate Conference Championship Championship and participate in the state Final Four, finishing third in California both years.
After Laney, Rob transferred to Sonoma State University. Rob cherished both years there and helped turn a program around that had a 7-42 record the year before his arrival into a 30 game winner in his second year. He loved playing for head coach John Goelz and is still a very close friend of Coach Goelz. In 2004, Rob was selected as a member of the Sonoma State University Athletic Department Hall of Fame. After two years at Sonoma State, Rob was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and played one season in their minor league system in Everett Washington where the Giants won the Northwest League Division Championship.
Coach Willson has been very fortunate to have had many outstanding assistant coaches who have played a major role in his success as a head coach and appreciates all of their very hard work. He also credits his parents Bob and Frances Willson for raising him and allowing him to be involved in baseball his entire life. The Willson family vacations always took place well after baseball season ended to ensure Rob and his brother would not miss a game. His dad would throw batting practice to him and his friends on a daily basis after a long day at work. He will never forget those days at Memorial park.
Two other major influences growing up were John Whitman, longtime Head Baseball Coach at Antioch High School and Jeff O'Donnell, Rob's 15 year old coach who guided the Albany Mets to the TOC Championship. Rob's brother Cary is a physical education teacher and Head Basketball Coach at California High School in San Ramon.
Assistant Coach: Ryan Evangelo
The 2010 season will be Ryan Evangelho's eighth season as an Assistant Baseball Coach at Sierra College. He spends his mornings and afternoons teaching classes at Sierra College. When Ryan is not working with hitters or outfielders he is running our offense. He takes pride in having the top offensive program in the Big 8 Conference year in and year out.
In 2010 Ryan will prepare to make a very raw and young offensive group into one that will produce like past wolverine teams. In 2008, Sierra again proved to be a powerful offense led by coach Evo; The '09 wolverine offense ranked 2nd in batting average in the BIG 8 conference. Sierra College has finished in the top 25 or higher in California for team batting average seven of the eight years Ryan has been here. The unselfish ability of the Wolverine hitters has led to the consistency of Sierra's potent offense. His outstanding knowledge and coaching ability helped led the 2008 Sierra College State championship offense to a #1 ranking among Big 8 conference foes with a team batting average of .338 which was 34 pts higher than the team that came in second. Coach Evangelho's baserunning savvy, led the wolverines to swipe 64 bases in the 2009 season, which ranked 2nd in the Big 8 conference.
Ryan played baseball at Aragon High School in San Mateo where he was a key part of three consecutive baseball league championships. He also played two years of varsity football and in his senior year, the Dons compiled a record of 13-0 and were California State Champions. Ryan was voted All-league as an offensive tackle. He then attended College of San Mateo where he played baseball one year under legendary coach John Noce. He also played one year under current head coach Doug Williams. After earning his AA degree at CSM, Ryan continued his college baseball career by receiving a scholarship to play baseball at the Division I level for the University of San Francisco. While playing baseball at USF, he earned a BA degree in Communications.
Ryan's first coaching stint was with Belmont Joe DiMaggio. He coached with long time DiMaggio coach Ken Ray for 2 years. He then accepted his first head coaching job at his alma mater, Aragon High School. Ryan led the JV team to a 2nd place finish. That summer Ryan coached a 16-year-old AAU team that traveled to play in the World Championships in Arizona. He then moved to Sacramento to coach varsity baseball at River City High School, where in his two years there, River City won a league championship and had a section runner up finish. Ryan Evangelho was named "coaches of the year."
In the summer of 2001 he took a coaching job with the Danville Dan's summer wood bat collegiate league in Illinois where his team won a league championship with a strong mix of players from Division I schools such as LSU, Florida State, Mississippi State and Long Beach State. The Dan's coaching staff was also selected to coach the All-Star game. Ryan will also head into his second season as an associate scout with the Atlanta Braves.
During the summer Ryan is hard at work recruiting the best high school baseball players in our local area. He is also the director of the Sierra College Baseball Camps. Ryan just finished his Masters degree in sports coaching from the United States Sports Academy this past summer.
Assistant Coach: Sierra College
Josh Morton, a Fair Oaks native, begins his eighth year as the pitching coach at Sierra College under Head Coach Rob Willson. Besides working with the pitchers, his duties include, recruiting, working camps, and running the strength and conditioning program. Josh has made Sierra College one of the most respected pitching programs in California. Along with his coaching duties, Josh is also a part-time physical education instructor at Sierra College and associate scout for the Boston Red Sox.
While earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology from Cal Poly from 1997-2001, Josh was a standout left-handed pitcher for the Mustangs, setting the school career record for appearances at 87. With that mark he is also fifth on the list for career appearances in Big West Conference history. After graduating, Josh played in the Canadian Professional Baseball League, where he was the closer for the Kelowna Heat in British Columbia.
Josh is a proud graduate of Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks. His most memorable event was helping to lead the Cougars to a 1995 Sac-Joaquin Section Championship. Josh was a three-year letterman in baseball and football, earning All-League and All-Metro honors, and was elected to the Optimist Game in both sports. Josh was the Co-M.V.P. of the Capital Athletic League in 1996 before heading off to San Luis Obispo.
Josh's coaching credentials include serving as the pitching coach at Del Campo High School in 2002 and helping the Cougars to a Capital Athletic League title. In the summer of 2002, Josh coached the Kelowna Falcons of the Pacific International League, compiled of college baseball players from all over the United States and Canada. In the summer of 2004, Josh served as the head coach of the National Baseball Institute, finishing with a 23-5 record and earning second place in the Sacramento Semi-professional Baseball League. During the summers of 2006 and 2007, Josh coached the EDH Vipers, an elite group of local talented high school players along with fellow assistant coaches Ryan Evangelho. While coaching the Vipers, Josh also got the opportunity to coach his younger brother Jake, who graduated from Jesuit High School in 2007 and is currently a pitcher on the Wolverine staff. Josh served as the assistant coach for the 2009 Auburn Legion Post 84 this past summer where he coached current Wolverines, Jake Bews and Cole Saunders. Currently he is heavily involved in Hank's Bombers Baseball Academy, ages 8-18, where he is the pitching director, and coaches many of the Bombers teams in games and tournaments. Josh also helps run practices, camps, and lessons.
Bret Hemphill is entering his second year as an assistant coach with the Sierra College Baseball Team. Bret's responsibilities will be to work with the catchers and hitting, as well as assisting the infield defense and coaching 1st base. Bret graduated from Cal State Fullerton, with a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology, and is currently pursuing a teaching credential.
Bret is a former Major League switch-hitting catcher with the Anaheim Angels. He played 7½ years of professional baseball in the Angels' organization as a catcher, and was on the big league roster for three years. He made his major league debut on June 28, 1999. He became the first rookie to collect his first two major league hits from both sides of the plate in his first two major league at-bats since 1980. Bret was the starting catcher for the American League in the Double-A All- Star game at San Antonio, TX in 1997. He was also named to the Northwest League All-Star Team in 1994. During his time in professional baseball, Bret was a member of two championship teams, Lake Elsinore (1996) and Boise (1994). Brett was also named the Angels' Best Defensive Catcher by Baseball America in 1994, '95 and '96.
Prior to his professional baseball career, Bret was a standout at Cal State Fullerton where he was part of two teams that played at the College World Series ('92 & '94). He played for future Hall of Fame Coach Augie Garrido and current Oregon Head Coach George Horton. He was voted "Best Defensive Player" for the 1994 team. Bret was named honorable mention All-Big West in 1994 and was voted to the All-Tournament Team for the 1994 Midwest I Regional. Coach Hemphill feels the time that he spent at Fullerton was not only the most rewarding time he had in baseball, but the most educational as well. It was there that he feels he really learned how to play the game the right way.
Bret was the JV Head Coach at Whitney High School in Rocklin for two seasons in 2006 & 2007. He has also been the head coach of the 15U travel team at Hard 90 Baseball in Roseville for the past three years. In his time at Hard 90 Baseball he has helped put together the program's College baseball showcase for high school seniors and juniors at Granite Bay High.
Erick Burns joins the Sierra College baseball staff for his first season and his duties will include helping with pitchers, recruiting, fundraising, and stats. Erick teaches PE and Health in the California community college system.
Prior to coming to Sierra, Erick was the Associate Head Coach at Yuba College for 12 years. He began his coaching career in 1994 at Florin High School, where they won the league title in '95 and were league runners-up in '94.
Erick's playing career after high school began at Mission College where as a pitcher he was twice All-Conference, "Santa Clara's Hot Stove" JC Player of the Year (1991), and set the career ERA mark at Mission (2.26 in 160 inn's). He transferred to Sacramento State and helped the team to a DI ranking of 16th his junior season and a second place WAC finish his senior season.