TSU hires baseball coach

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

Bobby Pierce, who built the Alabama-Huntsville baseball program from its infancy into a Division II national power, has been named as Troy State's new head baseball coach.

The 42-year-old was introduced to a gathering of Troy State supporters on Wednesday, becoming the Trojans' 11th head coach since 1954, when school records begin.

"Troy State is a great university with a tremendous baseball history," Pierce said. "I am very thankful for the opportunity to coach here and look forward to the challenge of trying to take the program to places where people want to see it go. Being part of the TSU family is exciting."

Pierce posted a 276-108 record in seven seasons at UAH, guiding the Chargers to the 2001 Gulf South Conference title and four NCAA regional tournament appearances. His squads also won three GSC East Division crowns and advanced to the conference tournament championship game four times. He was named the GSC's 2001 Coach of the Year after helping the Chargers finish 41-17 and earn a top 10 national ranking. This past season, UAH was 33-12.

Prior to his seven-year stay at UAH, Pierce served as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama from 1990-94. Before that, he compiled a 259-95 career mark in seven seasons as the head coach at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla.

"We were overwhelmed with the interest in this job," Troy State Athletics Director Johnny Williams said. "With 118 applicants, it verified to us that our program has an outstanding tradition that people recognize. We believe that Coach Pierce is the perfect fit. His credentials are outstanding and really jumped out at the search committee. With our tradition, the recent facility upgrades at Riddle-Pace Field and Coach Pierce at the helm, we feel like our program has a tremendous future."

Pierce also announced the hiring of his staff on Wednesday, introducing assistants Mark Smartt and Todd Lamberth. Smartt, a former head coach at the University of West Alabama, is a Troy State alumnus who starred on the school's 1986 and 1987 Division II national championship teams. He will serve as the team's No. 1 assistant. Lamberth, a member of Pierce's UAH staff, will become the team's pitching coach.

"Both are young, bright coaches who will do a fantastic job for us," Pierce said.

A Marianna native, Pierce is no stranger to TSU, having originally enrolled at Troy State as a freshman in the fall of 1977. He transferred to South Florida Community College in January 1978 and then played the 1979 season at Wallace Community College in Dothan. He signed with the University of Alabama in 1980. As a senior captain in 1981, Pierce set numerous SEC and school records as an All-SEC outfielder, along with being named to the Crimson Tide's All-Century team.

Following his graduation in 1982, the 23-year-old became the youngest head coach in Florida junior college history when he accepted the Chipola position. In his first season, the school finished 41-15 and won the Florida state junior college championship, helping him earn Panhandle Conference and Florida Junior College Coach of the Year honors. Chipola won four Panhandle Conference championships, earned five state tournament berths and won 40 or more games four times under Pierce. In addition, 76 percent of his players signed athletic scholarships at four-year institutions, 96 percent of which eventually earned their degrees.

Following his career as an assistant at Alabama, Pierce then embarked upon building the UAH program from scratch. He accepted the position in 1995, with the Chargers playing their first season in 1996. Pierce's teams posted records of 37-16, 39-11, 41-17, 43-17, 42-18, 41-17 and 33-12 in his seven seasons, respectively, ranking him fifth among all active Division II coaches with a .719 winning percentage.

Pierce will take over a program that finished 28-30 in 2002, replacing 12-year coach John Mayotte. The Trojans have posted three consecutive losing seasons. The A-Sun ranked eighth among Division I baseball conference's in 2002, sending three teams to NCAA regional tournaments.

"As an Athletics Department, we will try to do all we can to give the program a chance to grow and flourish," Williams said. "Baseball is our conference's highest-rated sport."