Coming off a 2018 campaign in which head coach Jeff Messer led the Slippery Rock baseball team to a pristine 30-19 record, The Rock will look to replicate that success with a handful of new faces as the 2019 season approaches.
After the departure of their highly successful pitching coach John Kovalik, who accepted an offer this past year to work within the Houston Astros organization, Coach Messer was more than pleased to extend the job offer to another one of his alumni, Sean Holliday.
Holliday, a standout pitcher who served a variety of roles for the Green and White from 2007-2010, whether it was relief or closing out games, was the perfect choice to take the job. When asked about what Holliday brings to the table for Slippery Rock, Messer was unwavering in his support of his new hire.
“I knew he would be an outstanding candidate for the position; Sean was our first choice,” Messer said. “He brings a calming sense to the pitching staff, and they are all very comfortable with him. He knows Slippery Rock, he knows the expectations within our program, and we are very fortunate to have him here.”
A departure of any coach can certainly be tough to deal with, especially in the case of Kovalik, as four Rock pitchers earned PSAC West honors under only two years of his guidance. Holliday can make an impact in his own right, as he will use his experience not only as a former player, but from the perspective of someone who has been involved with coaching baseball for several years as well. Due to his experience, Coach Messer believes that the transition from Kovalik to Holliday has been seamless.
“He has been involved with baseball since he left here in 2011; he runs a baseball school with his brother and we have seen him every year since then. He was the pitching coach for the last few years for North Allegheny, and we have a few pitchers on our team now who have played for him there or over the summer, so it’s not unfamiliar territory for a lot of our pitchers.” Messer said.
In addition to Coach Holliday, The Rock also added seven new pitchers to the roster this season that consists of five freshmen: Ricky Mineo, Andy McClymonds, Luke Trueman, Colin Cain and Chad Neugebauer, with two Division I transfers in Corey Burkes and Joe Dombrowski.
A promising freshman class will certainly take notes from the senior quartet of Ryan Tapp, Tanner Stanz, Wyatt Daugherty and Chris Anastas. These men will be tasked with replacing the services of Alex Pantuso and Matt Gordon. But with a new pitching coach and an assortment of young talent, Coach Messer believes that this freshmen class has uncapped potential.
“I think this is our best freshman pitching class that we have brought in in a very long time,” Messer said. “There are some very good arms in this freshmen class, and we have two talented transfers that came in as well. We have plenty of good arms, but they still have to go out there produce.”
Although The Rock lost their pitching coach who had experience playing for SRU along with a few big arms from last season’s squad, Coach Messer welcomes in another Rock alumni with several years of experience, along with multiple pitchers with powerful arms. Coach Holliday and his new found battalion will look to turn heads in 2019.