Chris Lemonis, Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana Hoosiers

Chris Lemonis enters his fourth season in 2018 leading the Indiana Hoosiers baseball program and his 24th overall year in coaching. Indiana University Vice President and Director of Athletics Fred Glass announced the hiring of the former Louisville assistant coach as the 24th head coach of the program on July 2, 2014.

Lemonis took over an Indiana Hoosiers program in 2015 that had gone 93-31 the previous two seasons, including its first-ever College World Series appearance in 2013 and the No. 4 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Baseball Championship. With a new look roster, his program immediately lived up to the expectations, posting a 35-24 overall record and earning a berth into a third-straight NCAA Regional.

With a 34-24-2 overall record and a 14-9-1 mark in Big Ten play, Indiana was selected to the 2017 NCAA Baseball Tournament field. Lemonis and the No. 2-seeded Hoosiers earned a berth into the Lexington Regional. With the NCAA appearance, Lemonis became the first coach in program history to make two regionals in his first three seasons as IU’s skipper.

The Hoosiers finished the regular season just one game out of third place in the Big Ten and only two games out of first place in the conference. IU played 18 games against Big Ten teams that qualified for the conference tournament, more than any other team participating in the field. Indiana finished as the highest rated RPI team in the league (34th) and ranked 16 nationally in strongest non-conference strength of schedule (33rd overall).

A total of seven Indiana players garnered All-Big Ten honors during the 2017 campaign, the most for a Lemonis coached team at IU. Sophomore Matt Lloyd (utility) and junior Logan Sowers (outfield) each earned second team honors, while senior Craig Dedelow (outfield) and sophomore Pauly Milto (starting pitcher) picked up third team recognition. Additionally, freshmen Matt Gorski (first base), Jeremy Houston (shortstop) and Cal Krueger (starting pitcher) earned freshman team honors. Lloyd additionally picked up ABCA All-Region honors.

An advocate of playing the game the right way, Lemonis’ squad additionally posted a school record fielding percentage of .979 in 2017. In three seasons at IU, Lemonis coached teams own three of the top four fielding percentages ever in the history of the program.

In year two at the helm in 2016, Lemonis’ club posted a 32-24 overall record and a 15-9 mark in Big Ten play, which was good for a third place finish in the conference’s regular season standings. On a national level, the Hoosier pitching staff finished second in walks allowed per nine innings, second in WHIP, fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 11th in team ERA and 25th in hits allowed per nine innings.

For a team that fielded a then-school record of .975, leading the way for the Hoosiers defensively was second baseman Tony Butler, who didn’t record a single error on the season, earning him a spot on the ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Team.

A total of six players from Indiana earned all-conference honors in 2016, led by LHP Kyle Hart, who was named First Team All-Big Ten. Also earning spots were shortstop Brian Wilhite and outfielder Criag Dedelow, both of whom earned Third Team All-Big Ten laurels. The freshman class played a key role in 2016, as Scotty Bradley, Ryan Fineman and Luke Miller each earned spots on the Freshman All-Big Ten team. Miller also went on to Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball.

During the successful 2015 campaign under Lemonis, the Indiana Hoosiers won 12 of their last 17 games overall, with nine of those wins coming against RPI Top 50 teams. The Hoosiers were 12-5 vs. ranked opponents, including five Top 15 wins. A total of four Hoosiers earned All-Big Ten honors, including Scott Donley and Craig Dedelow earning spots on All-Conference teams while Logan Sowers was a Freshman Team selection.

Since joining the Indiana Hoosiers, Lemonis has had 12 draft picks, including multiple-time draft picks Craig Dedelow and Jake Kelzer, and a total of 10 players that have gone on to sign professional contracts.

As an assistant coach, Lemonis’ imprint in elevating the Louisville program to new heights was evident. The former Cardinals’ recruiting coordinator aided Louisville to three College World Series appearances (2007, 2013, 2014) and a 359-159 (.693) record during his eight seasons there, including back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, he was named the ABCA/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year

While working under Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell, Lemonis helped the Cardinals produce 15 All-Americans, 54 all-conference selections and a pair of conference Player of the Year winners.

Known as one of the premiere hitting coaches and recruiters in college baseball, Lemonis built a pristine track record in 20 years as an assistant that included continuous Top 25 recruiting classes and 12 visits to the NCAA Tournament.

Lemonis mentored and or recruited 47 players that signed professional contracts after being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft during his eight years with the Cardinals, including a school-record 10 selections in the 2010 MLB Draft. To this date, 12 Cardinals who were recruited by and or played for Lemonis have gone on to reach the big leagues. Those players include Adam Duvall, Chris Dominguez, Cody Ege, Adam Engel, Chad Green, Dean Kiekhefer, Matt Koch, Trystan Magnuson, Justin Marks, Kyle McGrath, B.J. Rosenberg and Tony Zych.

Lemonis helped Louisville win four BIG EAST championships in the school’s final five years in the conference and he saw U of L set the school record for wins in a season three different times, including 2013, when the Cardinals won a current-best 51 games.

Prior to his time at Louisville, Lemonis spent 12 seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, The Citadel, including the final four as associate head coach. While at The Citadel, the Bulldogs recorded five NCAA Regional appearances and finished first or second in the Southern Conference seven times.

Lemonis, who worked primarily with hitters and outfielders at The Citadel, oversaw 35 new offensive records. The Bulldogs boasted seven All-Americans, two Freshman All-Americans, 17 first team All-Southern Conference honorees, a Southern Conference Player of the Year and a Freshman of the Year. Two Bulldogs that played for Lemonis, Britt Reams and Dallas McPherson, each reached the Major Leagues.

Part of nearly 800 wins as an assistant coach, Lemonis’ teams averaged 39.2 victories per year during his career in an assistant role, bolstered by a 44.9 wins-per-season average at Louisville.

Lemonis graduated from The Citadel in 1992, twice earning All-Southern Conference honors as a player and leading the team in home runs three times. He led the Bulldogs with a .367 average, 19 doubles, 52 runs, 10 home runs and 66 RBI as senior. He was also named to the 1993 All-Southern Conference Tournament team. He ranks in the top 15 all-time at The Citadel in RBI (152), 11th in home runs (23) and 10th in slugging percentage (.538).

About the author, Bill

Bill Ballew has been involved with collegiate and professional baseball since 1983. He has been the Atlanta correspondent for Baseball America since 1991 and has served as the editorial content manager for Baseball The Magazine for more than five years. He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).