|Josh Hopper - 13
Josh Hopper enters his fourth season with the Blazers in 2013 after leading the UAB pitching staff to an impressive campaign a season ago. He joined the UAB baseball staff as pitching coach in July 2009 after spending the previous five seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Berry College in Rome, Ga.
Hopper guided the UAB pitching staff in capturing its first-ever Conference USA Tournament Championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991. En route to the NCAA Regionals, Hopper saw three pitchers off the 2012 staff earn all-tournament honors in Michael Busby (MVP), Ryan Nance and Chase Mallard. In the three C-USA Tournament victories, the Blazer staff registered a miniscule 1.08 ERA and held opponents to a .189 batting average in 25 total innings, including a 5-0 shutout of Memphis in the league's title game.
In addition to the successful postseason run for UAB, Hoppers' staff pitched the most innings in program history (554.1) and recorded the most victories (32) since the 1996 campaign. The Blazers recorded four shutouts, most since 1993, and issued the fewest walks (207) since 2003 under Hopper last season.
In his four seasons with the Green and Gold, he has worked with three of the top 10 lowest ERA pitchers in program lore: Ben Bullard, Dillon Napoleon and Ryan Woolley.
The 2011 staff featured two right-handed pitchers that were recognized by the league in Ryan Woolley and Dillon Napoleon. Both earned second-team all-conference honors, while Napoleon became the first UAB player to earn the league's Newcomer of the Year award. Following the season, Woolley was drafted in the 13th round by the Detroit Tigers, becoming the 12th pupil under Hopper's guidance to play professionally.
"Josh has a great command of pitching mechanics and a toughness and energy that are contagious as he leads our pitching staff," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "We truly believe he is one of the bright young stars in our profession. We as coaches, along with our players, are blessed to have Josh Hopper leading our pitching staff."
In 2009, his final season at Berry, Hopper helped the Vikings to the program's first NAIA World Series appearance and a ranking of No. 4 in the final NAIA Baseball Coaches Poll. Berry finished the year 46-16, and Hopper's pitching staff ranked in the top 25 nationally in ERA (4.22) and opponent batting average (.263).
The 2009 Berry staff featured NAIA All-American Matt McCalley, who finished the season with a 10-1 record and a 1.26 ERA. Also the program's career saves leader, McCalley is the second All-American coached by Hopper, joining Tim Borders (2001). In 2008, Hopper coached Collin McHugh, who was selected by the New York Mets in the 18th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft. McHugh made his major league debut last season with the Mets.
Hopper's pitchers are known for their command of the strike zone with his 2006 Berry staff leading the nation in fewest walks per game and the 2008 version ranking 13th in the country in that category. In his five-year stint with the Vikings, Hopper's pitching staffs averaged 290 strikeouts a year to just 141 walks.
Hopper's most recent stop at Berry, located in northwest Georgia, was his second stint as an assistant with his alma mater. He started his coaching career at Berry in 2001 before moving on to Georgia State for the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Hopper then returned to Berry before the 2005 campaign. In addition to his experience at the college level, Hopper also previously served as the head coach of the 18-year-old East Cobb Tigers out of the highly successful East Cobb Baseball youth program in Marietta, Ga.
As a player at Berry in the late 1990s, Hopper pitched his way to all-conference honors three times and finished his career ranked in the top five on the school's all-time wins and strikeouts lists. He helped the Vikings to three NAIA regional tournament appearances.
Following his collegiate career, Hopper spent two years in the New York Mets' minor league system. He was a member of a championship team in 1999 with the Mets' Gulf Coast League squad and then split the 2000 season between the Capital City Bombers of the South Atlantic League and the Pittsfield Mets of the New York-Penn League.
Hopper graduated from Berry in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in health and physical education. He earned a master's degree in exercise science from Georgia State in 2004. Hopper was married in July 2006 to the former Kylie Bivens, and the couple has a five-year old son Kase and a daughter Kameron who was born last summer.