Craig Cozart, High Point Panthers

High Point baseball

The 2018 season is head coach Craig Cozart’s 10th at the helm of the High Point Panthers. Cozart has a reputation for recruiting and developing pitching staffs. He has had 32 pitchers selected in the Major League Baseball draft under his guidance, including former Panther and current Cleveland Indian closer Cody Allen, who was drafted in 2011.

Cozart was named the High Point Panthers’ fifth head coach in June 2008 and has led HPU to program records in wins and nearly every offensive category. He has helped guide the Panthers to their four-winningest seasons in the program’s Div. I history and currently holds the HPU Div. I records for overall wins and conference wins. He has coached the team to its only six .500 or better seasons, including each of the last five.

HPU has won at least two games in the Big South Championship five times in eight seasons under Cozart and in 2012 became the first No. 7 seed to advance to the Big South semifinals since 2000.

With a great eye for talent and an outstanding ability to develop pitchers, 38 of Cozart’s pitchers have signed professional contracts. Eleven players have been drafted to MLB in Cozart’s nine years at HPU, headlined by an HPU-record four Panthers that were drafted in 2013.

The High Point Panthers won 30 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Div. I era by finishing 30-23 in 2017. The Panthers won five consecutive conference series during the course of the year, compiling an 11-4 conference mark through the five-weekend stretch.

High Point posted its second-best season since joining Div. I in 2016 as the Panthers finished with a 32-24 overall record and a second-place showing in the Big South. Three players from the 2016 squad were drafted as Andre Scrubb was selected by the Dodgers, Chris Clare was picked by the Orioles and Tyler Britton was drafted by the Astros.

The High Point Panthers won a program-record 33 games in 2014, finishing the season with a 33-22 overall record and an 18-9 record in the Big South. The 18 conference wins were also a program best for High Point. HPU set a new Div. I program-low with a 3.24 team ERA while also holding opponents to a .227 batting average. Conor Lourey posted an HPU Div. I record with a 1.48 ERA while going 9-0 in his first season with the team.

In 2010, Cozart led the program to its first winning season in the Division I era, posting a 31-29 mark (15-12 Big South Conference). The Panthers finished third in the Big South Tournament, the best-ever finish for HPU and set program records in batting average, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, stolen bases and walks.

Cozart joined HPU in 2009 and led the team to a 21-32 overall record and an 11-12 record in the Big South Conference. He made an immediate impact on the program as the Purple & White earned a win over No. 4 North Carolina, the highest-ranked opponent HPU has ever beaten, and two wins over Coastal Carolina, which was ranked 14th at the time.

Cozart came to HPU after 12 seasons at his alma mater, UCF, where he moved up the ranks from student assistant coach to associate head coach. At UCF, Cozart helped guide the Knights to a 455-274 overall mark during his 12 seasons. In his role as the pitching coach, Cozart built a tradition of pitching excellence.

Cozart guided the 2008 UCF pitching staff to a No. 4 national ranking in strikeouts per nine innings after recording 537 strikeouts for the year, the second-most in program history.

Three pitchers from Cozart’s 2004 staff were drafted, including Matt Fox in the first round by the Minnesota Twins and Kyle Bono in the eighth round by the Boston Red Sox. Bono earned the largest signing bonus in draft history for an eighth-rounder. In addition, junior lefty Jaime Douglas was a 26th-round selection of the Anaheim Angels.

Fox and Bono were both named All-Americans in 2004. They formed one of the nation’s elite pitching tandems. Fox finished the year 14-2 with a 1.85 ERA while Bono was 8-2 with a 1.94 ERA en route to second-team All-America status. The pair was part of a pitching staff that finished 10th in the nation in ERA with a 3.42 mark. The 2004 UCF staff also shattered the school record with 13 shutouts. It was the second pair of All-Americans Cozart coached at UCF after Justin Pope and Jason Arnold earned the honor in 2001. Pope went on to be drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round, while Arnold was a second-round pick of the New York Yankees.

An outstanding pitcher in his own right at UCF from 1993-96, Cozart earned second team All-Atlantic Sun honors in 1995 and was a three-time All-Academic team member. Cozart led the Knights in wins for consecutive seasons in 1995 (10) and 1996 (7) and finished his career second all-time in UCF wins (24), fourth in appearances (65), fourth in starts (40) and fourth in strikeouts (204). Cozart was a member of three NCAA Tournament squads and three conference champion teams as a player for the Black and Gold. Cozart was drafted in the 45th round by the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and again in the 28th round by the San Francisco Giants in 1996 but decided to forego the professional ranks to further his education and begin his coaching career at his alma mater.

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).