The 2013 LMU baseball team officially started practice on Monday, energetically taking to Page Stadium with the goals of its first WCC Championship since 2000 and much more. The practice opened with a speech from fifth-year head coach Jason Gill before going into discussions and drills.
Bryant Ward is in his third season as an assistant coach in the LMU baseball program. Before heading to LMU, Ward spent four seasons with the University of South Florida. Familiar with head coach Jason Gill, Ward and Gill worked together in the Cal State Fullerton baseball program in 2005 and 2006.
Serving as LMU's recruiting coordinator, Ward compiled a Top-25 recruiting class according to Baseball America's annual evaluation of NCAA Division I 2011-12 baseball classes. The Lions came in at No. 23, marking the first top-25 class under Gill and his staff. The class also garnered a spot in the "Other Top Recruiting Classes" section of Collegiate Baseball's annual poll.
Ward and the Lion coaching staff most recently guided the baseball program to an even 27-27 overall record and a 14-10 mark in the WCC during the 2012 season. The conference record saw the Lions finish tied for third. Working with the hitters, Ward helped LMU place six players on the All-WCC teams, including four offensive players, highlighted by first-teamers Colton Plaia and Matt Lowenstein.
In his first season as an Assistant Coach at LMU, Ward helped the program to its best overall record since 2004, posting a mark of 30-25 in 2011. The Lions finished 11-10 in the West Coast Conference, earning a tie for third overall. The Lions placed five players on All-Conference teams, while four were taken in the MLB draft, including three in the first 12 rounds for the first time since 2005.
Ward, who served as USF's hitting coach and was in charge of overall development for position players, saw two of his hitters post consecutive individual BIG EAST batting titles in 2008 and 2009.
Ward's 2009 offense proved to be his most productive, hitting .315 as a team, its highest team batting average since 1997. In his four seasons with USF, four Bull position players were named freshman All-America, including Ryan Lockwood who was named 2008 College Baseball News Freshman of the Year. In addition, since his arrival at USF in 2007, Ward saw eight of his position players earn All-BIG EAST selections.
Before heading to USF, Ward spent two seasons working in the Cal State Fullerton baseball program. With Ward at Fullerton, the Titans compiled a two-year record of 96-33, and advanced to Omaha in 2006. In that season, the Titans finished the year with a 50-15 record, earning the team's 14th trip to the College World Series. The Titans finished the '06 season hitting .313 with 43 home runs, while ranking in the top-five in each of the year's final polls. In his first season with the Big West Conference power in 2005, Ward saw the Titans post a 46-18 record en route to hosting the Super Regional.
Prior to joining the Cal State Fullerton program, Ward served as an assistant coach at Pitt (N.C.) Community College from 2003-04. He assisted in all defensive and offensive instruction and development, as well as recruiting.
Ward was a standout infielder for the East Carolina Pirates from 1998-02, playing for the late Keith LeClair. Serving as team captain during his senior season, Ward helped guide the Pirates to a 182-67 record and four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. He finished his ECU career ranked fifth in games played (194), seventh in at-bats (687), and third in doubles (50).
During his freshman campaign (1999), Ward and the Pirates posted a 46-16 overall record and became the first Colonial Athletic Association team to earn a No. 1 seed at a NCAA Regional.
As a sophomore (2000), Ward once again helped lead East Carolina to a top seed in the NCAA Regionals, capturing their second-consecutive CAA crown. In 2001, Ward earned first team All-CAA, second team All-East Region and NCAA All-Wilson Regional honors, while leading the Pirates in batting average (.368) and doubles (22). ECU went 47-13, earning the school's first-ever national seed (No. 7), and finishing just two games shy of reaching the College World Series.
As a senior (2002), Ward guided East Carolina to a 43-20-1 record as a team captain. The Pirates earned a No. 24 national ranking, secured its first-ever Conference USA Tournament title, and notched its fourth-straight NCAA postseason appearance.