If you haven’t been keeping up, read an introduction of our college baseball countdown here.
Quietly, one of the best coaching jobs in the entire country is going on in the America East Conference with the Hartford Hawks under head coach Justin Blood. Sure, the Hawks haven’t broken through and made it into a regional yet or had a moment that moved them to the forefront of national college baseball conversation, but Blood has his program heading in the right direction.
When looking at the work he has done, we have to first consider where the program was before he came on board. In 2011, the season before Blood took over, the Hawks went 6-43. Looking back further, in the ten seasons before he arrived at Hartford, the team hadn’t won more than 18 games in any one of those seasons and not once had they finished with a .500 or better record in league play.
In Blood’s four seasons in charge, the Hawks have equaled or bettered their best conference record from those previous ten seasons in three out of four years, and when he led the program to a 31-23 overall record in 2014, it was Hartford’s first winning season since 1992. In the last two seasons, the Hawks have qualified for their conference tournament, which is the first time the team has done so in back-to-back seasons since 1993-1994.
Not surprisingly, the talent is improving as well. Three Hartford players were drafted in 2014, marking the first time multiple players had been drafted from the program since 1994 and the first time more than two had been selected since 1989. Brian Hunter, as a 9th-round pick in 2014 and Sean Newcombe, as a 1st-round pick in the same year, were the highest-selected players from Hartford since some guy named Jeff Bagwell was taken in the 4th round of 1989’s draft.
As a program, Hartford has a lot of obstacles to overcome. Weather is always going to be a challenge, they play in a mid-major conference, and Stony Brook is already an established regional power in what is traditionally just a one-bid league. But given what he has already accomplished in a short amount of time, it wouldn’t be smart to bet against Justin Blood and his Hawks.