Second-year skipper ready to challenge his squad in 2015
Penn State closed the season out at home on Saturday
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Nittany Lions raise money for THON and Vs. Cancer Foundation
Penn State enters five-game week after series setback at Minnesota
Rob Cooper enters his second season at the helm in 2015. He was selected as the 14th head coach in Penn State history on August 9, 2013. He came to Happy Valley after nine seasons as the manager at Wright State.
In his first season in 2014, the team posted 18 wins. In a game against Michigan State on May 16, the Nittany Lions became just the second team in NCAA Division I history to turn two triple plays in a game.
In the classroom, 15 of Cooper's student-athletes earned 2014 Academic All-Big Ten honors.
Since joining the Penn State family, Cooper has already achieved great success in the coaching world. Shortly after Cooper accepted the PSU head coaching position, the California native traveled to Taichung, Taiwan to serve as the head coach of USA Baseball's 18U National Team at the IBAF U18 World Cup. Cooper steered Team USA to an 8-1 record in World Cup play, including seven consecutive victories to win the gold medal.
Not long after the triumph in Taiwan, Cooper received one of the highest honors bestowed in the profession, as he was announced as the Rod Dedeaux USA Baseball Coach of the Year. With the honor, Cooper became just the 16th individual in the award's history to receive the accolade, joining the likes of Scott Brosius, Davey Johnson and Tommy Lasorda.
Prior to arriving in Happy Valley, Cooper took over a Wright State team that had six losing seasons in a seven-year span. Cooper methodically built Wright State into a perennial contender in the Horizon League with seven 30-win seasons, two Horizon League regular-season titles, three Horizon League Tournament crowns and six Horizon League Championship game appearances. In nine seasons, Cooper accumulated a 286-230 record as the Wright State manager. Over the course of his career at Wright State, he guided the Raiders to a pair of wins over No. 1-ranked opponents in Virginia (3/5/10) and Georgia (3/24/09).
During his tenure with the Raiders, Cooper has seen 47 players earn all-conference accolades and 18 garner all-newcomer honors. He has also produced five Horizon League Players of the Year, one Pitcher of the Year, three Relief Pitchers of the Year and two Newcomers of the Year. Additionally, Cooper has found success for his players on a professional level, with 21 WSU players signing professional contracts, including seven Major League Baseball Draft picks.
During the 2012 campaign, Cooper recorded career win #250 at UIC on April 22 in the form of a 4-3 decision. The Raiders also posted the program's second-longest winning streak ever as the Raiders reeled off 14-straight victories during March and April, outscoring their opponents 185-67 in the process. To cap off the 2012 season eight Raider players were honored by the Horizon League, including Player of the Year in senior outfielder Tristan Moore and Relief Pitcher of the Year in senior pitcher Michael Schum.
The 2011 season saw Cooper record his 200th coaching victory with an 8-2 decision at home over Youngstown State on March 26. The Raiders won their second-straight Horizon League regular season title with a 16-7 record, claimed the league tournament crown by winning three-straight games and advanced to the NCAA Regionals in College Station, Texas.
Cooper won his second-straight Horizon League Coach of the Year award and seven players were named to the All-Horizon League teams. The Raiders claimed three of four postseason awards, as first baseman Jake Hibberd was selected as the Player of the Year after leading the league in all three triple crown categories (batting average, home runs and RBIs) while Schum was chosen as the Relief Pitcher of the Year and catcher Corey Davis the Newcomer of the Year.
In 2010, Cooper was selected as the Horizon League Coach of the Year as WSU finished 31-25, including a win over a top-ranked team for the second consecutive season with a 2-1 victory at Virginia on March 5. The Raiders won the Horizon League regular-season title with a mark of 17-6, the first regular-season conference crown for the program since the 1997 squad won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference title. Wright State then advanced to the championship round of the league tournament before falling twice to Milwaukee. Seven team members were honored by the Horizon League as all-league athletes.
The 2009 Wright State Raiders compiled a 33-30 overall record, including an 8-5 victory at No. 1 ranked Georgia on March 24. The schedule included four teams ranked among the Top 25 and a handful of national powers that received votes during the season. WSU claimed victories over national contenders Tulane, Kent State and UNC-Wilmington on the road, while facing the No. 1 team five times during the season (four games at Texas A&M, one game at Georgia). Jeff Mercer was named the Horizon League Player of the Year earned third team All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball Magazine. Schum was named the Relief Pitcher of the Year in the league and also was named to the Collegiate Baseball Magazine's Freshman All-American squad, becoming the first player in program history to earn the recognition.
The 2008 season was the third-straight season that Cooper won 30 or more games, posting a 30-23 overall record and a 16-6 mark in league action. The 16 wins were good enough to finish second in the Horizon and six players received All-Horizon League honors, including the Horizon League Player of the Year in Jeremy Hamilton.
At season's end, Cooper watched as a school and Horizon League record three players were drafted during the 2008 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. Hamilton, Justin Parker and Ross Vagedes were all selected during the draft in the fifth, sixth and 35th rounds, respectively.
The 2008 squad set school records for batting average and slugging percentage, while Hamilton (.410) became the fifth WSU player to post a batting average of .400 or better. The Raiders also led the Horizon League in batting average, total bases, fielding percentage and fewest hits allowed by a pitching staff.
In 2007, Wright State enjoyed one of the most prolific offensive seasons in school history as it broke three career records and 11 single-season school records. Ross Oeder, now a Penn State assistant coach on Cooper's staff, was named the Horizon League Player of the Year and garnered second team All-America Honors, while Dan Biedenharn won the Rawlings Gold Glove at third base. Oeder and Parker were each selected to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-Region team and Hamilton was added to the USA Collegiate National Team roster during the summer.
During the 2007 campaign, the squad posted a winning record on the road for the first time since 1994. Wright State also totaled 15 wins at home and set the school standard for league wins in a season with 21. WSU made their second trip to the Horizon League Championship game in 2007, falling in the finale to UIC.
The 2006 edition of the Raiders set six school records and posted the most season wins in five years. During the `06 slate, Cooper's squad defeated nationally-ranked TCU on the road, topped national-powerhouse Notre Dame in South Bend and was on the brink of an upset against eventual national champion Oregon State in the NCAA Corvallis Regional.
Cooper has seen 12 of his players sign professional free agent contracts and has had seven other players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Joe Smith, who was the 2006 Horizon League Pitcher of the Year, was drafted in the fifth round by the New York Mets and made his major league debut on Opening Day of the 2007 season with the Mets. Oeder, the 2007 Horizon League Player of the Year, was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2007 draft and played for the Quad City River Bandits last season. In 2008, Hamilton was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round, Parker was taken in the sixth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Vagedes was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the 35th round. In 2010, Greg Robinson was drafted in the 32nd round by the Diamondbacks and Aaron Fields was selected in the 42nd round by the Cleveland Indians.
Oeder and Smith were the first players in history to garner the Player and Pitcher of the Year honor since WSU joined the Horizon League/Midwestern Collegiate Conference. Oeder became only the sixth player in league history to earn the league's player of the year and tournament MVP honor in his career. With Oeder, Hamilton and Mercer winning the Player of the Year awards in 2007, 2008 and 2009, they became the first trio of teammates to claim the awards in three consecutive seasons.
Before coming to WSU, Cooper served as the hitting coach, recruiting coordinator and bench coach at Oral Roberts University. A perennial power of the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), ORU advanced to the finals of the NCAA Austin Regional in 2004, beating TCU twice and losing to top-seeded Texas 7-3, and 7-5. The Golden Eagles, who finished with an overall mark of 50-11 in 2004, also boasted regular-season wins over national powers Arkansas, Arizona State (twice), Creighton (three times) and Wichita State. Oral Roberts also had five players selected in the Major League Baseball draft, two honored as All-Americans by the ABCA and three named All-Americans by the College Baseball Insiders website.
Cooper began his coaching career at national power Miami (Fla.), spending two seasons (1994-95) as a student/graduate assistant on the Hurricanes' staff. While at Miami, Cooper helped lead the Hurricanes to College World Series berths in 1994 and 1995.
Cooper spent the 1996 season as an assistant and team academic coordinator at Wake Forest, then moved on to Tulane for the next two seasons, serving as the Green Wave's hitting coach. During his tenure as an assistant coach at Miami and Tulane, his teams advanced to NCAA Tournaments in 1994-95 (Miami) and 1998 (Tulane). In 1997, the Green Wave won the Conference USA regular-season crown.
Cooper left Tulane following the 1998 season and returned to Sacramento City College, where he starred in the early 1990's before lettering at Miami in 1993. In his first season at Sac City, Cooper helped guide SCC to the California Community College State Tournament championship. Sac City was then the runner-up in 2002.
Along with his college coaching experience, Cooper also was an associate scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1990-92 and has been selected to four coaching stints with USA Baseball in 2000, 2007, 2009 and 2013.
Cooper earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Miami in 1994 and a master's in sports sciences/administration from Miami in 1996. He is married to his wife, Maureen, and has two sons, Jake and Tyson.