Lenoir-Rhyne Director of Athletics Kim Pate has announced that Chris Ramirez has accepted the position of head baseball coach. Ramirez comes to Hickory from the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS), where he was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division II National Coach of the Year in 2018. He will become the 20th head coach in Lenoir-Rhyne baseball history.
At UIS, Ramirez inherited a program that won 30 games in the three years prior to him taking over and built it into one of the top programs in the nation. The Prairie Stars reached back-to-back NCAA Division II Regionals and secured a spot in the Super Regional this year. The 2018 team was ranked as high as fourth in the nation and its 47-9 mark was the best in team history. In 2019, the Prairie Stars were ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation and LHP Austin Dean became the programs fifth All-American in the past three seasons. In his final three years at UIS, Ramirez posted a 121-47-1 record, including a 29-game winning streak in 2018. He leaves UIS with 199 wins, the most in program history.
“I couldn’t be more excited for Chris Ramirez to join our Bears family and head up our LR baseball program,” said Pate, who hired Ramirez while she was the Director of Athletics at UIS. “It’s certainly a unique and rare opportunity to get to work with a talented coach like Chris not just once but twice. I had the special privilege of watching Chris develop a program from its infancy to a national contender. Chris is an incredible coach, visionary leader, and most importantly will build a program of character that our players, faculty, alumni, and community will take great pride in. What excites me the most is the opportunity for our players to experience a coach who is going to develop them, inspire them, and help them to be successful both on and off the field.”
“I’d like to thank President Dr. Fred Whitt and Athletic Director Kim Pate for the incredible opportunity to be the head baseball coach at Lenoir Rhyne,” said Ramirez. “Their commitment to do what it takes to be one of the best athletic departments in the country is undeniable and it shows by the energy surrounding every team and coach on campus. I’m truly honored and extremely excited to lead this program. My family and I are looking forward to joining the LR Family as well as the Hickory community.”
Ramirez led UIS to countless program milestones, including winning the first Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Division Championship Title in 2018, contending for a GLVC Tournament Championship in 2019, hosting NCAA Regionals in both 2018 and 2019, garnering the programs first All-American honors, and posting the first national ranking for the program.
Coming into the 2019 season, Ramirez coached 29 all-conference players, including 13 first team selections, eight all-region performers and four All-Americans. His 2018 team boasted the best offense in the country, leading Division II with 1.86 home runs per game, a .581 slugging percentage and 9.4 runs per game. Additionally, they led the nation in hits allowed per nine innings and led the GLVC in ERA, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
On top of his National Coach of the Year, Ramirez was awarded Conference and Regional Coach of the Year honors. In addition, Ramirez coached Cole Taylor who went on to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, becoming the first UIS player to sign with an MLB-affiliated organization.
Along with success on the field, Ramirez was instrumental in developing the UIS Baseball stadium into one of the best in the region. Prior to Ramirez’s watch, the team competed at local high schools and community parks. Within the first year, Ramirez spearheaded an initiative to develop an on-campus facility that eventually expanded to include new dugouts, a new backstop, scoreboard, state-of-the-art batting cages and a turf infield.
Prior to UIS, Ramirez spent six seasons as a Division I assistant coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He served as the recruiting coordinator and ran the offense as the third base coach and helped turn the program around. The Islanders made their first-ever Southland Conference Tournament in their first season as a program and Ramirez coached two freshmen All-Americans and 10 of his recruits were selected in the MLB Draft.
Ramirez played at the Division I level, spending two seasons as an outfielder at High Point University and earning a spot on the Big South All-Academic Team in 2005. Ramirez graduated from High Point in 2005 with a degree in business administration.
A press conference is scheduled for Thursday, June 13, at 4 p.m. in McCrorie Center Room 213 to introduce Ramirez and provide members of the LR community the opportunity to meet and welcome him to the Hickory community. Members of the press are invited to attend.