A mere week after Chris Lemonis’ departed Bloomington to take the Mississippi State job, Indiana has found its next head baseball coach. On Monday, IU Athletic Director Fred Glass officially announced Jeff Mercer as the 25th coach in program history, per release. The 32-year old Mercer had compiled an impressive 77-38 record in two seasons at Wright State — leading the Raiders to their first-ever national ranking in 2018, as well as an NCAA Tournament appearance this past season.
“I have loved baseball and the state of Indiana my whole life and it is an honor to be the head baseball coach of the state’s flagship institution,” said Mercer in a release. “With the talent that the Midwest is producing, top notch facilities, the commitment of the school, and our ability to recruit and develop players at the highest level, the sky is the limit for IU baseball. I cannot wait to get to work.”
The departure of Lemonis, after four seasons, was rather disheartening in terms of the program’s future — as another successful coach had left Bloomington for a job at a bigger program. As the Hoosiers continue to build a program that rivals its SEC counterparts, the hire of Mercer, on paper, certainly makes sense.
For starters, Mercer hails from the state of Indiana — growing up in nearby Bargersville before playing collegiately at Dayton and Wright State, respectively. As custom in Glass’ recent hires, Mercer has a level of familiarity in Midwest baseball that will likely benefit the program in recruiting. According to the press release on Monday, both IU catcher Ryan Fineman and starting pitcher Pauly Milto have already spoke with Mercer:
“After talking with Coach Mercer, you immediately know what he stands for, and that is winning,” Fineman said. “He is going to come to our program and develop us into winners on and off the field.”
“After speaking with Coach Mercer, it became very obvious that our program will be in great hands,” said Milto. “His confidence, experience, competitive mentality, and strong urge to win proved to me that we will be successful next year. I’m excited not only for this upcoming season, but for the future of Indiana University baseball as I believe Coach Mercer is here to stay and take this baseball program to the next level.”
At Wright State, Mercer was named the 2018 Horizon League Coach of the Year and developed twelve of his players into Major League Baseball draft selections. The Raiders defeated six ranked opponents in his two years’ at the helm. IU’s press release writes that Mercer is “known for his strength as a recruiter and talent developer as well as his innovative use of advanced analytics.”
According to Big Ten baseball reporter Chris Webb of 10innings.com, Mercer has described Indiana as “his lifelong dream job. The Yankees could call and he’s saying no. Bloomington is where he wants to be for 25+ years.”
Under Mercer, the Hoosiers will work to build upon the momentum established by Tracy Smith (Arizona State) and Lemonis (Mississippi State.) Indiana leads the Big Ten in wins and NCAA tournament appearances since 2008. IU has not appeared in an NCAA Super Regional or College World Series since 2013, in Smith’s final season. The Hoosiers graduated seven players from their 2017 team — including four draft selections. Junior third baseman Luke Miller and junior pitcher Tim Herrin both chose to sign and forego their senior seasons.
“Predictably, we had very strong interest in this position,” said Glass. “Jeff Mercer quickly rose to the top of an impressive field. I have no doubt that he is the right person to build on the success of Indiana baseball, including taking us back to Omaha.”