PDT Sports Contributor
When building or trying to improve upon a program, coaches will tell you that recruiting the players that best fit their respective systems is the key to building a winning program.
However, Ted Tom and the Shawnee State University baseball coaching staff have not only recruited at a high level, but have also developed all-conference worthy athletes in the process of raising the overall level of the program.
The work that Tom has put into the baseball program over his seven-year head coaching career has paid off in a big way as the former Bear athlete has won two conference title games and advanced to a third during his coaching tenure at SSU.
Last week, Tom accomplished yet another milestone for him and the program when he won the 196th game of his head coaching career and in his tenure as the program’s head man in a thrilling 2-1 walk off victory against Pikeville College on Friday, April 18th at Branch Rickey Park. The win put him past his former head coach, Pat Rigsby, for the most wins in SSU baseball history.
As he reflected on his 196th victory, Tom (who has now accumulated a record of 201-191 in his coaching career) said that the staff’s relentless work ethic is the reason why he has been able to achieve the success that he has had at Shawnee State University.
“Getting the win record last week was a culmination of all of the hard work that we’ve put into the program, and when I say we, I mean the entire coaching staff and the players that have played here for us,”
Tom credits Moore for the trust that Moore had in him to lead the Shawnee State baseball program when Tom decided to take over the reins of the Bears’ baseball program.
“… We have similar philosophies on the way that we want things done, and it just goes,” Tom said. “A good amount of the time, we don’t have to communicate what we want to do, because we know what we want to do and what we want to accomplish, and for the most part, things haven’t changed since Day One.”
Tom also mentioned how Moore’s prowess in recruiting and ability to evaluate recruits on the recruiting trail has helped the program grow into what it is now.
“He’s a really good evaluator of talent,” Tom said. “He has a really good ability to see a guy play, whether it be a high school player or a college player, and see where that player is going to be in a couple of years. There’s been many times where a player shows up and a couple years later, he ends up earning all-conference honors.”
“… His work ethic is second to none, also. He gets out on the road. This spring, he’s been to Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Illinois, just all over the place recruiting guys,” Tom said. “That guy’s on the road, sleeping in his car, doing whatever it’s going to take for Shawnee State baseball to be successful, despite having no connection to Portsmouth or to Shawnee State, he’s jumped right in like he’s been a lifer.”
Tom said that the incumbent players that stuck it out through the first couple of seasons have also been vital to the program’s overall successes of today.
“We had really good kids when we got here, and some really good players,” Tom said. “It just was a matter of giving those guys a vision of what we wanted to accomplish, and from Day One, it was ‘I want to play for championships,’ and ‘Here’s how we need to go about doing it,’ and those guys bought into what we wanted to accomplish and I was really difficult on those guys.
“… I can’t wait to see those guys because of how much they meant to our program. The championships that we were able to win and the success that we had is because of the way those guys started off this era.”
Additionally, Tom says that the three conference championship appearances (2010, 2011, 2012) and the two conference titles (2010, 2011) do not come without the effort of the players on the first and second teams that he coached.
“… There’s no doubt in my mind that the guys that were on the first team and the second team are a huge part of that because they set the foundation,” Tom said. “We had some work to do when we got here, and that started with bringing in some good guys and we were able to do that.”
The workmanlike effort that it took to build the program up is what makes the 196th victory of Tom’s head coaching career that much more special.
In a game that was tied at one run in the bottom of the ninth inning with two men gone, Tyler Kilpatrick (who had not recorded a hit all season in three at-bats at the time) poked out a bloop single into shallow right field, which dropped in between three Pikeville fielders.
The hit allowed an already running Brady Hightchew to easily score from second base as the Bears took a dramatic 2-1 victory.
“It’s awesome, because it’s what we talk about with our players all of the time, which is for our players to put themselves in a position to be successful,” Tom said. “We thought at that particular time that (Kilpatrick) was going to give us the best chance at winning the game and obviously, his mindset was where it needed to be at that time.”
With the record now behind him, Tom looks forward to improving the program even further, both from a facilities standpoint and from the successes on the field.
“Portsmouth has a rich tradition in baseball and hopefully, we’re the next step of continuing that tradition and keeping Branch Rickey Park in the way that it’s supposed to be kept,” Tom said. “From a program standpoint, we have to continue to bring in good people and try to be successful both on the field and in the classroom so we can graduate our guys and get the guys who want to be successful and who can represent Shawnee State University and our program in the manner that we desire.”