Baseball is a sport that’s driven by statistics. Fans are well-versed in categories like batting average, slugging percentage and earned-run average.
The creation of Fantasy League Baseball has introduced even more numbers, factors like WHIP and OPS.
Here’s something that’s not a fantasy - by any sort of number you want to use, AU baseball coach John Schaly is a big-time winner.
Schaly is the owner of a 1,069-575-7 career record. Early in the 2015 season, he made college baseball history with his late father, Don, as they became the first father-son tandem at four-year institutions to each win 1,000 career games.
In the AU dugout, Schaly is 706-357-4. In 29 years as a college head coach, Schaly has produced 36.9 wins per year. He has never finished under .500 at Ashland.
The Eagles have played in the NCAA postseason 14 times under Schaly. They have won four regional championships and reached the NCAA Division II College World Series four times. The last time the Eagles went to the World Series was in 2008. AU has won 40 or more games seven times under Schaly’s direction.
In 2016, Ashland won a second consecutive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division title, as well as a share of the GLIAC regular-season championship. The Eagles went 2-2 at the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional tournament in Quincy, Ill. Junior right-handed pitcher Brandyn Sittinger and sophomore third baseman J.P. Sorma each earned numerous national, regional and conference honors.
In 2015, Ashland made the NCAA postseason and ended the season at 38-19. The Eagles won the GLIAC regular-season title, and the conference’s first-ever South Division championship. Senior second baseman Stephen James had one of the best offensive seasons in recent memory, and earned three All-American citations and the GLIAC player of the year honor.
The 2013 season saw the Eagles win their first GLIAC Tournament championship. AU ended the regular season ranked first in the Midwest Region. The Eagles went 1-2 at the regional tournament at Drury. AU ended the year with a 37-19 record. Sophomore pitcher Jake Baldwin was the GLIAC pitcher of the year, Midwest Region pitcher of the year and secured All-American honors.
In 2014, the Eagles were hit with a rash of injuries. First baseman Tyler Gray was lost for the last half of the season and the starting rotation was decimated by arm injuries. Despite those obstacles, Schaly and the Eagles began the year nationally ranked, spent most of the season regionally ranked, played in the GLIAC Tournament and narrowly missed the NCAA postseason. The Eagles finished 24-21.
In 2011, Schaly won the 900th game of his career. As usual, the Eagles spent most of the season ranked among the top teams in the region. AU finished the year 30-21, 19-15 in GLIAC play. Pitcher Ajay Meyer was recognized as an All-American by two organizations, was a finalist for the Tino Martinez Award (presented to the NCAA Division II player of the year) and was tabbed as the GLIAC pitcher of the year.
Schaly’s teams are known for solid play offensively and defensively. The Ashland record book has been re-written since Schaly came to campus. Every season seems to bring several memorable moments.
The 2010 season saw the Eagles go 35-22, 21-12 in GLIAC play. Ashland advanced to the championship game of the GLIAC Tournament and was invited to the NCAA playoffs. The postseason bid was Ashland’s fifth straight. The Eagles featured one of the most potent middle-of-the-order combinations in the nation in Jacob Petkac and Ben Minard. As usual, the Eagles spent the season regionally and nationally ranked.
In 2009, the Eagles were 42-15-1. Ashland won the GLIAC regular season title with a 26-5-1 record. The Eagles were ranked third in the country - that’s the highest national ranking in the program’s history. AU advanced to the NCAA playoffs and was the top-seeded team in the region and hosted the regional championship tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio.
AU boasted the 2009 GLIAC player of the year (Petkac) and the 2009 GLIAC pitcher of the year (Meyer). Schaly was recognized as the conference coach of the year. The AU boss has won that award six times.
History shows that Ashland teams under Schaly should never be overlooked or underestimated. The 2008 season was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Schaly and the Eagles. Fielding one of the youngest teams of his AU tenure, his team got on a roll just as the postseason rolled around. The Eagles went 4-1 at the North Central Regional Tournament to win that event.
At the World Series, AU opened play with a 6-5 victory over two-time defending national champ Tampa. The two teams that defeated the Eagles at the Series, Mount Olive and Ouachita Baptist, advanced to the 2008 NCAA Division II championship game. AU’s final record was 40-18.
Schaly’s 2002 team won a school-record 48 games. The top 12 single-season win totals in Ashland history have been recorded by Schaly-coached teams. The 2006 team that went to the World Series was 47-17.
In 2007, the Eagles featured one of the top all-around players in the country in Casey Jirsa. The infielder was the 2007 GLIAC player of the year and for the second year in a row, was a first-team Academic All-America. Jirsa was also named the Small College Baseball Academic All-America of the year. Since Schaly arrived at AU, the Eagles have had the GLIAC player of the year seven times, the freshman of the year three times and the pitcher of the year six times. Schaly has coached the region’s pitcher of the year six times and player of the year on five occasions.
What Schaly has accomplished at AU is a complete overhaul of the program. His first year on campus, the Eagles were 27-23. The next year (1999), they improved to 45-16 and advanced to the NCAA World Series. The 2002 team also advanced to NCAA Championships and became the first AU team to win a game at the World Series.
Schaly has been recognized as the North Central region coach of the year four times.
During his career, he’s coached 28 players who have played professional baseball.
Before coming to AU, Schaly spent six years (1992-97) as the head coach at St. Leo. He won 40 or more games twice at the Florida school, and at one point had the Monarchs ranked first in the country. His 1996 team advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs, the first time in 18 years the team reached the postseason. That year, Schaly was recognized as the Sunshine State Conference coach of the year.
Schaly’s first collegiate head coaching job came at Berry (Ga.). He coached there from 1988-91 and started the baseball program from scratch. His record at Berry was 155-91. Three times, he led Berry to the NAIA playoffs. Schaly never won less than 35 games in a season during his time there and claimed one district title.
Before becoming a head coach, Schaly served as an assistant at Kentucky (1985-87), Marietta (1984-85) and Iowa State (1982-84).
Schaly played baseball at Marietta under his father, Don. The AU head coach earned All-America honors in 1981 and 1982, and in 1981, was named the most valuable player at the NCAA Division III World Series. Marietta won the national championship that season. A second baseman during his playing days, Schaly was an Academic All-America and is a member of the Marietta College Hall of Fame. Schaly’s late father won 1,442 games as a head coach.
Schaly earned his undergraduate degree in physical education from Marietta in 1982 and his master’s degree in physical education/administration from Iowa State in 1984.
Schaly currently is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) board. He was the president of the ABCA in 2012, and was only the fourth president from the Division II ranks. He also used to be a part of the All-America/Gold Glove Committee.
Schaly and his wife, Becky, reside in Ashland. The couple has three children - Nikki, 24, Adam, 23, and Drew, 14. Adam was a pitcher on the baseball team at Stetson, and is the AU baseball program’s new graduate assistant.
Nominated by Bill Schirmer