Two teams, two ideally similar situations and two fantastic seasons under their belt.
For the AUM baseball and softball teams, 2015 marked the beginning of a new era. For the first time in either program’s history, they began their 2015 campaign without the head coaches that helped start up their respected sport.
The softball team parted ways with head coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson in the fall of 2014, after six successful seasons. Steiner-Wilcoxson got the program off of the ground and running during her short tenure at AUM, posting a record of 189-85-2 in the team’s first six years of existence.
Her biggest accomplishment undoubtedly was leading the team to its first ever NAIA National Championship in 2014. That team boasted a record of 44-7, while going a perfect 16-0 at home and 25-1 in Southern States Athletic Conference play.
Fast forward to 2015, and you find the Lady Warhawks in a very similar place. Only this time, leading them to their second consecutive national championship is first-year head coach Eric Newell.
Newell, who posted a stellar 254-121 record at William Baptist College prior to AUM, led his 2015 Lady Warhawks team to a nearly identical season record as the year before. They finished with an overall record of 46-9, a home record of 18-1 and a Southern States Athletic Conference play record of 24-2. Even more identical to last season was that Newell was also able to help lead this team to a second consecutive national championship in only its seventh year of existence.
The baseball team was also given the task of having to replace the only coach the program has ever known this past season. Long-time head coach Q.V. Lowe retired following the 2014 season, leaving behind him a legacy like no other. The NAIA Hall of Fame coach amassed over 1,100 wins during his 28 year stint at AUM, while leading the team to three NAIA World Series appearances.
The AUM Athletic Department didn’t have to look very far for a replacement, however. They hired Marty Lovrich, who served as an assistant under Coach Lowe for 22 years.
Prior to being named AUM’s head baseball coach, Lovrich was the head coach at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia for two seasons. In his two seasons with the Hornets, Lovrich compiled an 85-37 mark, including a 37-22 record in Southern States Athletic Conference play. Lovrich led the 2014 Hornets to a SSAC tournament championship and made an appearance in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
Lovrich’s first season as the head coach for the Warhawks saw lots of success. He led his team to an overall record of 40-18, including a SSAC record of 25-5, which earned them the title of regular season conference champs and earned Lovrich the SSAC Coach of the Year Award.
In addition to winning the regular season conference championship, Lovrich led this team to a SSAC Conference Tournament Championship, which ultimately landed them a spot in the NAIA national tournament.
All of this immediate success from both first-year head coaches may have come as a surprise to some, but AUM Sports Information Director Tim Lutz knew that a successful season from both teams was a realistic possibility prior to the season’s start.
“Both of our teams had lofty expectations coming into the season,” Lutz said in a recent interview. “We knew that we had a lot of pieces coming back with softball, we also knew that we had a new head coach in Marty [Lovrich] who had a taste of what it’s like to get to the World Series in Idaho last season at Southern Poly. We knew that both of those programs, even though they experienced a head coaching change, were focused and dedicated to succeeding this season.”
Lutz went on to praise both coaches for making the transition from one head coach to another so easy on the players.
“There’s an adjustment period from a personnel standpoint, and there’s an adjustment period from a head coaching standpoint,” Lutz said. “I think that both of these programs had a relativity seamless transition with the changes in personalities and the changes in philosophies at the head of their programs. Ultimately, you can say that, at the end of the day, that’s what led to both of these teams being so successful this season.”
The accomplishments that both of these teams achieved this past season were nothing short of exceptional. The fact that they could string together so many victories with head coaches who were still getting acclimated to coaching at AUM makes it even more impressive.
As for future ramifications, you’ve got to believe that after a few seasons and recruiting classes under their belts, both coaches should have no trouble being able to put together one successful season after another. Only time will tell, but as for now the future looks very bright for the AUM baseball and softball programs.
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