Link Jarrett, UNCG Spartans

UNCG Spartans

Link Jarrett is in his sixth season as the head coach of UNCG Spartans baseball program.

Jarrett, formerly a two-time Assistant Coach of the Year award winner and offensive mastermind brought 13 prior years of coaching experience to the program, including stops at Flagler, Mercer, Florida State, East Carolina and Auburn.

In eight of the last ten seasons, his teams at UNCG, Auburn and East Carolina have led their respective leagues in batting average. Additionally, Jarrett has coached 71 players who have entered the professional baseball ranks and signed three first round selections that chose to sign a professional contract foregoing college (Mike Trout, Addison Russell, and David Dahl). Of those 71 players, 11 have played or are currently playing in the major leagues.

UNCG earned its first-ever Southern Conference Tournament title in 2017, earning the automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1997 season.  The Spartans finished 2017 36-24, marking back-to-back seasons with 36 or more wins for the second time in school history.  The UNCG offense continues to prove its one of the top in the nation, leading the league in average (.320), runs (438) and triples (33).  The Spartans led the NCAA in triples and triples per game, as well as being in the top 25 in the country in six offensive categories.

Four Spartans earned All-Southern Conference awards following the 2017 season.  Freshman Caleb Webster was named the league’s Freshman of the Year, as well as earning Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA and first team All-SoCon honors at third base.  Sophomore centerfielder Andrew Moritz earned first team All-SoCon after leading the league in batting average in his first two seasons in the SoCon.  Second team All-SoCon selections included outfielder Ben Spitznagel and designated hitter Cesar Trejo.

UNCG had two players drafted in the 2017 MLB Draft, continuing Jarrett’s streak of at least one draft pick in every season he’s been the skipper.  The Arizona Diamondbacks took right-handed pitcher Jack Maynard in the 21st round, pick 622 overall.  The Oakland Athletics selected senior Ben Spitznagel in the 27th round, pick 801.  Maynard was a junior college transfer who tied for the team lead in strikeouts, fanning 80 hitters in 68.2 innings of work.  As a reliever, Maynard earned a 1.77 ERA and three saves. Spitznagel was a two-time All-SoCon second team selection, playing second base in his junior season and outfield as a senior.  The Cincinnati, Ohio native is currently second all-time in career batting average, hitting at a .371 clip in two seasons at UNCG.

In the classroom, the Spartan baseball team earned a 3.16 GPA during the Championship season, setting a new program record.

The 2017 season started with one of the biggest wins in program history, defeating the fourth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks at Founder’s Park in front of 8,017 fans. The Spartans proved to be a tough out on Sunday afternoons, going 12-3 and were never swept throughout the course of the season.  The team hit at a .333 average, allowed just 4.2 runs per game and averaged 8.67 runs.  The Spartan pitching staff recorded one of the top seasons in recent history.  The staff earned a 4.93 earned run average, the best team ERA since the 2011 season.  The pitching staff struck out 487  hitters and limiting opponents to 231 free passes.  The staff set a new school record, having recorded 19 saves as a team.

In Southern Conference play, UNCG earned a 14-10 record, recording series victories over Western Carolina, ETSU, The Citadel and took the program’s first series against the Mercer Bears. UNCG recorded three sweeps on the season, taking every game of a weekend series with Maryland Eastern Shore, Lafayette and Furman.  Furman finished the season as the fourth seed in the SoCon tournament, with UNCG taking five of six games from the Paladins, including two victories in the SoCon Tournament.

In 2017, Jarrett continued his role as the coaches representative on the Southern Conference Baseball Committee, as well as voting in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

In his fourth season at the helm, Jarrett earned Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2016 as UNCG led the SoCon in average, runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBI, total bases, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, sacrifice flies and finished with a SoCon best 38-21 record.  The 38 wins are third most for UNCG Baseball, and it marks the most successful season since 1997.

2016 marked the most successful season in Jarrett’s tenure, and was one of the most prolific offensive seasons in school history.  Jarrett led the Spartans to a 38-21 overall record, with a 15-9 mark in SoCon action.  The UNCG Spartans finished tied for second place, the highest finish since the 1998 season when UNCG won the SoCon Regular Season Championship.  The Spartans ended the 2016 season setting school records in batting average (.345), runs (492), hits (726), RBI (451), doubles (145), triples (32), and on-base percentage (.425).  At the conclusion of the 2016 season, UNCG led the NCAA in average, hits, doubles, triples and slugging percentage (.538).

Eight Spartans, including Jarrett earned All-SoCon honors, the most of any season UNCG has been a member of the SoCon. RHP Andrew Wantz, OF L.J. Kalawaia, and 3B Collin Woody earned first team selections.  2B Ben Spitznagel and DH Dillon Stewart earned recognition on the SoCon’s Second team.  RHP Matt Frisbee, OF Andrew Moritz and UT Cesar Trejo were three of 12 players named to the All-Freshman squad.  UNCG led the SoCon in total selections.  Wantz also earned the SoCon Media Poll’s Co-Pitcher of the Year award in 2016.

UNCG had three players drafted after the 2016 season, tied for the most drafted players in school history, and the most in Jarrett’s tenure.  Kalawaia was drafted in the 21st round by the Los Angeles Angels, Smith was taken in the 24th round by the Boston Red Sox, and Woody was taken by the Baltimore Orioles in the 38th round.

UNCG finished the nonconference portion of the schedule at an impressive 20-9 mark, including a trio of weekend sweeps.  The Spartans earned a three-game sweep of Binghamton, who qualified for the NCAA College Station Regional.  The Navy and Gold earned a total of five weekend sweeps, the most in a season since the 2008 campaign.  UNCG notched its first-ever wins over Illinois, taking a pair of games from the Fighting Illini at the Coastal Carolina Invitational in Conway, S.C.  While in Conway, UNCG earned a victory over eventual 2016 National Champion, Coastal Carolina.

Jarrett continued to build the program in his third season in Greensboro in 2015, coaching the UNCG Spartans to a fourth-place finish in the Southern Conference standings.  UNCG ended the season in the top 25 nationally in four statistical categories including home runs per game (seventh), slugging percentage (eighth), home runs (17th) and batting average (22nd).

The program took a large step forward academically in 2015 as the team boasted a collective 3.14 grade point average with 22 players recording a 3.0 or higher. The squad also placed 18 of its student-athletes on the 2014-15 Southern Conference Honor Roll – the most of any UNCG team.

For the third-straight year, the Spartans had a pitcher selected in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. The Atlanta Braves took Junior RHP Ryan Clark with the 150th pick in the fifth round. It was the second consecutive season the Braves took a UNCG pitcher in the top five rounds as former standout Max Povse was tabbed in the third round (102nd overall) of the 2014 draft.

A trio of UNCG Spartans earned All-Southern Conference recognition on 2015 in outfielder Eric Kalbfleisch (Second Team), Clark (Second Team) and RHP Andrew Wantz (All-Freshman Team). Additionally, three UNCG players were selected as SoCon Pitcher/Player of the Week while Clark earned recognition as the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Month for March.

Big wins continued to be a staple of the Jarrett era as the Blue and Gold picked up victories over a pair of ranked teams in No. 24 Liberty at the Keith-LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C. and No. 17 North Carolina on the road in Chapel Hill, N.C. Jarrett has led the Spartans to five wins over ranked foes in his tenure as well as victories over every Atlantic Coast Conference program in North Carolina (Duke, NC State, North Carolina and Wake Forest). UNCG also picked up a series win over SoCon newcomer and eventual league champion Mercer in Macon. The Blue and Gold was the only team to record a series win over the Bears in conference play.

During the 2015, 2016 and 2017 campaigns, Jarrett served as a voter on the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll and was the coaches’ representative on the Southern Conference Baseball Committee.

In his second season at the helm of the Spartan baseball program, Jarrett again led the team to the Southern Conference’s highest batting average at .310 – also good for sixth in the nation. In fact, UNCG finished in the top 50 nationally in eight different offensive categories including 22nd in runs scored per game (6.4).

A total of five Spartans hit .317 or better with junior Hunter King leading the way at .382 – the second-highest mark in the SoCon. King earned Southern Conference Player of the Month honors for April while classmate Jordan McDonald was named the league’s hitter of the week March 24.

As for league accolades, five UNCG players were recognized on the all-conference teams with King and senior Sean Guite earning first-team selection, McDonald and junior Eric Kalbfleisch garnering second-team honors and rookie Adam Swim landing on the all-freshman team.

For the second time in as many seasons, Jarrett saw at least two of his players selected in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft as junior Max Povse was taken in the third round by the Atlanta Braves, senior Dylan Thompson was drafted by the Rockies in the 31st round and signee Alex Durham was scooped up by the New York Mets in the 12th round.

As a team, UNCG recorded some significant series wins in SoCon play as the Spartans swept Elon for the first time ever and won their first series against Georgia Southern in Statesboro since 1998. The Blue and Gold also went 3-1 against local ACC foes Duke and Wake Forest – sweeping the home and home against the Demon Deacons for the first time since 2004. UNCG also picked up a road win at perennial power East Carolina while also sweeping Big East foe Georgetown and downing the Big Ten’s Minnesota in a tournament in Myrtle Beach.

Jarrett’s offensive prowess paid immediate dividends to the Spartan offense in his first season as the team compiled a Southern Conference-best .311 batting average. It was the first time UNCG had ever finished on top of the league rankings in the statistic. In all, the Blue and Gold ended the season in the top four of the SoCon in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, doubles and sacrifice flies. On a national scale, the Spartans were 12th in batting average, 17th in slugging percentage, 23rd in doubles per game, 26th in home runs per game, 29th in hits, 31st in home runs, 33rd in scoring (runs per game) and 34th in total doubles.

In terms of individuals, Jarrett mentored senior outfielder Christian Wolfe to a record-setting season in which he finished first in the Southern Conference and second nationally with a .421 batting average – the highest single-season mark in program history. Wolfe became the first UNCG player since 2003 to earn All-America recognition as he was tabbed an All-America by three different publications. He would end the season ranked in the top 50 nationally in batting average (second), hits (26th), doubles per game (48th) and on base percentage (49th). On the SoCon level, Wolfe checked in first in batting average, third in on base percentage, tied for third in hits, tied for fifth in doubles and 10th in total bases.

The UNCG Spartans also had two players drafted under Jarrett’s watch as junior catcher Cambric Moye and senior RHP Dominique Vattuone were selected in the 30th and 32nd rounds of the 2013 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim picked up Moye while Vattuone became a member of the Oakland Athletics.

The Spartans were well represented when the Southern Conference season-ending awards were revealed as Wolfe earned selection to the first team by both the league’s head coaches and media panel. Additionally, redshirt freshman infielder Nin Marrero was named the SoCon Freshman of the Year by the media. Marrero and freshman RHP Ryan Clark were tabbed to the Southern Conference All-Freshman Team while senior infielder Trevor Edwards received recognition as a second-teamer.

Jarrett’s first season at UNCG was not without big wins either, as the Spartans traveled to Raleigh March 19 and knocked off eventual College World Series participant NC State 8-5 in 11 innings. The Blue and Gold also captured their first series win over a ranked team when UNCG captured two of three over No. 22 Georgia Southern March 28-30 at the UNCG Baseball Stadium.

Before his arrival in Greensboro, Jarrett spent three seasons as the assistant coach/director of player development at Auburn for coach John Pawlowski. During his time at Auburn, the Tigers averaged 34 wins per season and advanced to the Southeastern Conference Tournament all three years becoming just one of five SEC schools to accomplish that task. Under his guidance, the Tigers saw 19 players selected, 11 of which have been position players, in the Major League Baseball Draft in three seasons. named Jarrett SEC Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 as he helped the Tigers post a 43-17 overall record and capture the SEC West Division championship. Auburn advanced to the NCAA Tournament and hosted the NCAA Regional where is posted a .349 team batting average in the postseason.

Jarrett was in charge of the team’s offense and helped the Tigers set school records for batting average (.348), home runs (131) and slugging percentage (.591), the latter two both national bests in NCAA Division I baseball. Auburn’s 816 hits, 584 runs and 9.1 runs per game also finished in the top 10 in the nation and led the SEC as did the team’s on-base percentage (.423), RBI (549) and total bases (1385). Additionally, Hunter Morris was name SEC Player of the Year in 2010.

In 2012, Jarrett helped Auburn posted a 31-28 record while leading the SEC in batting average (.304), on-base percentage (.386), triples (19), stolen bases (113) and stolen base attempts (151). The Tigers had four players drafted in the MLB Draft while also seeing six signees selected. Auburn led the league in conference play in batting average, hits, doubles, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and total bases.

Prior to Auburn, Jarrett spent four seasons as the hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator at East Carolina under head coach Billy Godwin. He helped the Pirates advance to the NCAA Tournament his last three years while averaging 40.2 wins per season with a .639 winning percentage. He also aided East Carolina to a 46-20 record in his final year in Greenville in 2009, guiding the Pirates to a NCAA Regional host and championship with an NCAA Super Regional appearance in Chapel Hill. East Carolina also collected the 2009 Conference USA regular season title. named Jarrett the Conference USA Assistant Coach of the Year for his work in 2009. He helped the Pirates become of the most prolific offenses in the country, finishing with a NCAA-best 814 hits, while placing fourth in runs scored (565), sixth in doubles (154), seventh in home runs (108), 12th in slugging percentage (.546) and 15th in batting average. East Carolina also led Conference USA in on-base percentage (.415), RBI (523), total bases (1310) and fielding percentage (.971). He helped recruit Conference USA Newcomer of the Year Chris Heston and All-Freshman Team selection Kevin Brandt.

In 2008, East Carolina posted a 42-21 record with finishing as runner-up in the Coastal Carolina Regional. The Pirates led Conference USA in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs, hits, RBI, home runs, total bases and walks. East Carolina advanced to the NCAA Regional in 2007 with a 40-23 record as it led the league in home runs while finishing third in batting average e, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and RBI. Also, he recruited Conference USA Player of the Year Corey Kemp, Freshman of the Year Seth Maness, Newcomer of the Year Justin Bristow and All-Freshman Team member Dustin Harrington.

Prior to East Carolina, Jarrett spent two seasons at Mercer as the recruiting coordinator, helping the team double its win total in his first season (2004), and then topping that with the team’s first winning record since 1999 with a 28-26 mark during the 2005 campaign.

Jarrett spent the 2003 regular season at his alma mater, helping Florida State to a 54-13-1 record and a Super Regional berth as well as an ACC regular season championship.

Jarrett began his coaching career at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1999. Over the course of three seasons, Flagler established school records in batting average, hits, doubles, fielding percentage, ERA and double plays while posting a 108-63 record (.632), with a 40-win season in 2001 and a No. 5 national ranking.

Jarrett was the starting shortstop on three College World Series teams at Florida State in 1991, 1992 and 1994. He earned NCBWA All-America honors as a junior and senior and still holds the NCAA record for career assists with 802. He also holds the FSU records for consecutive games played (235) and at-bats (989).

Jarrett was the 22nd round pick of the Colorado Rockies in the 1994 MLB Draft. He was voted the Most Spectacular Defensive Player in the organization in 1994 while playing for the Bend (Ore.) Rockies in Single-A and then hit .303 for the New Haven Ravens (AA) in 1997.

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).