Mark Calvi, South Alabama Jaguars

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Mark Calvi is in his sixth season as head coach of the South Alabama Jaguars. He became the fifth head coach in South Alabama baseball history at the conclusion of the 2011 season, after spending the previous slate as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. Calvi has led the Jaguars to three Sun Belt Conference championships in the last four years and the team entered the final weekend of the regular season ranked 25th in the nation.

In his career, which spans 21 years at the collegiate level, including an 11-season stint at fellow Sun Belt Conference member Florida International, Calvi has worked with more than 40 pitchers who have either been drafted or signed with Major League Baseball teams – that includes seven who have reached the majors – along with position players Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Walker.

Calvi came to South Alabama from the University of South Carolina, where he served as pitching coach for six seasons. In 2010, Calvi’s Gamecock pitching staff led USC to the national championship, ranking in the top 10 in earned run average (seventh, 3.45), strikeouts (sixth, 8.9) and hits allowed per nine innings (third, 7.48), after posting a 2.15 ERA in seven College World Series contests, which was nearly a point lower than the next best team in Omaha. The Gamecocks led the Southeastern Conference in ERA and innings pitched, but also allowed the fewest hits in the conference.

Calvi was named the recipient of the Eighth Annual Pitching Coach of the Year Award by Collegiate Baseball News in September 2010 for his efforts in helping lead the Gamecocks to the national title.

In his first season at South Alabama, Calvi led the Jaguars to their highest Sun Belt Conference Tournament seed (No. 4) since the 2006 season. USA closed the 2012 campaign with consecutive wins over Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic to close the SBC Championship. In 2013, Calvi led the Jags to their 14th SBC championship and 25th NCAA Regional appearance after recording the program’s first 40-plus win season since 2003 was named the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year and American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Diamond South Central Region Coach of the Year.

Seven Jags earned all-conference honors in 2013, and Jordan Patterson was named the SBC Player of the Year becoming just the sixth Jaguar in the program’s history to earn the honor. Patterson and Kyle Bartsch also earned ABCA South/Central all-region honors. Bartsch, Patterson, Nolan Earley and Dylan Stamey were selected in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Patterson (4th round, 109th pick) became South Alabama’s highest draftee since Adam Lind was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the third round of the 2004 MLB Draft.

Calvi led USA to its 15th Sun Belt crown in 2015 en route to his second SBC Ron Maestri Coach of the Year award. He was also named the Large College Division-Division I Coach of the Year by the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association. Right-hander Kevin Hill was named the Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, and became the program’s 27th All-American at the conclusion of the season. Center fielder Cole Billingsley was named first-team all-SBC, and received a 2015 American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Division I Gold Glove Award as one of three outfielders  named to the team. Right-hander Ben Taylor also earned first-team all-SBC honors as a relief pitcher, and was selected in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox.

The Jags led the SBC in batting average (.285), on-base percentage (.376) and sacrifice flies (28), and finished second in the league in runs scored (328), hits (570) and stolen bases (80). The South Alabama pitching staff led the conference in ERA (3.22), strikeouts (474), runs allowed (221), earned runs allowed (188) and home runs allowed (22), and ranked second in innings pitched (526), wins (37) and fewest hits allowed (472).

USA also led the Sun Belt with a .978 fielding percentage, which ranked tied for 10th nationally and broke the program’s previous record of .972.

Calvi led the Jaguars to the program’s 16th Sun Belt title and 26th NCAA Regional appearance in 2016, and closed the season ranked No. 26 in the final Collegiate Baseball poll. USA went 42-22 and advanced to the NCAA Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional final. The Jags also broke the school’s single-season fielding percentage record for the second straight season with a league-leading mark of .979, which also ranked in the top 10 nationally. Calvi was named the 2016 Coach of the Year by the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association, the second time he has earned the honor at USA, following the season.

In three of his six seasons at USC, Calvi’s pitching staffs finished with an ERA of below 4.00, and ranked in the top five in the SEC in the category four times during that stretch. The Gamecocks ranked in the top 50 in ERA four times during Calvi’s six seasons, and also finished in the top 50 in hits allowed and strikeouts per nine innings each of his last three seasons.

During Calvi’s six seasons with the program, the Gamecocks reached an NCAA Regional every year, advanced to three Super Regionals and claimed the 2010 CWS title. USC posted an overall record of 262-140 (.668) during his tenure there. Additionally, three of his hurlers earned Freshman All-America honors while Blake Cooper, who Calvi helped end the year second in the country in wins (13) and 10th in strikeouts (126), was voted to multiple All-America squads in 2010.

Prior to joining the staff at South Carolina, Calvi was an assistant at FIU for 11 years. During his time with the Golden Panthers, they advanced to an NCAA Regional seven times while moving on to the 2001 Super Regional. His staff led the country in ERA in 1995 (2.40) – FIU’s 16 shutouts that spring are tied for the sixth-highest total in NCAA history – and ’99 (3.07), and in 1998 the Golden Panthers’ 675 strikeouts were tops in the nation. Calvi’s unit recorded an ERA that finished in the top 10 in the NCAA five times.

His efforts in Miami helped Joseph Burns pace the nation with a 1.20 ERA during the 1995 campaign, while a year later Evan Thomas led the country with 220 strikeouts – the latter is the fourth-highest figure ever in the NCAA. In all, Calvi produced eight All-Americans and 13 all-conference selections with the Golden Panthers.

Calvi was a three-year letterwinner as a catcher at Nova Southeastern, and after he earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education, he signed a professional contract with the Seattle Mariners. Following a season in which he helped his team win the Northwest League championship, he worked for a year as a scout for the Mariners.

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).