Staying the Course

Rodney Hennon Chases Championships and Legacy in the Sun Belt

This year, Eagles baseball coach Rodney Hennon reached 700 wins, adding another milestone to an already decorated 20-year career helming the team. Over the last four years, however, he’s been chasing a goal that has proven much more elusive — a Sun Belt Championship.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying. Since their 2015 inaugural season in the Sun Belt, the Eagles have reached the championship finals three times, and won the new East Division this past season after being picked to finish fourth. They battled their way to the championship game against former national champion Coastal Carolina, who came from behind to cinch the win.

“This team did a really good job of bouncing back and really just showing up to play every day,” Hennon said. “I felt like we were playing really good baseball down the stretch going into the tournament, and we were in a good position and unfortunately just didn’t finish it off in that championship game.

“So it was tough to end that way, but at the same time we did a lot of really good things throughout the course of the year. We had 35 wins playing a very challenging schedule, and the nice thing is, we’ve got a lot of these guys back.”

The Eagles enter the 2020 season with almost all of their position players returning to the field, only losing outfielder Tyler Martin, who hit .304 during the 2019 season. Behind the mound, however, Hennon will be looking to fill several crucial vacancies with the loss of senior Cole Whitney, grad transfer Daniel Collins and standout juniors Seth Shuman and Joe Nahas, who both signed to major league teams over the summer. Shuman was drafted by the Oakland A’s and Nahas was signed by the Chicago Cubs.

“We really didn’t bring in many position players in this recruiting class,” said Hennon. “It was more pitching heavy. But we feel like there are some guys that’ll be able to have key roles for us before it’s all said and done.”

Hennon is no stranger to excellence, or what it takes to get there. During his tenure, the Eagles have won five Southern Conference (SoCon) Tournament Championships and made three tournament final appearances. He was named SoCon Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2001, and has an overall record of 790-525-1 in 22 seasons as a coach.

When you ask him about his success, he’ll quickly point to the people around him that make it possible — coaches, assistants, managers, and even the support of the University and community — people who will roll up their sleeves and work hard to improve the program.

When you ask Hennon what he wants next for his storied career, he doesn’t hesitate.

“We want to win a Sun Belt Championship,” he said. “I told the guys after the last game we just have to stay the course with what we’re doing because they’re doing it the right way. They’re getting better. And if we can continue to move forward and trend in that direction, then the results will take care of themselves.” 

Doy Cave