Justin Pettigrew enters into his third year as head baseball coach at Southern Arkansas University after being promoted from associate head coach following the conclusion of the 2016 season.
Last season, Pettigrew and the Muleriders staked claimed to the program's fifth Great American Conference Tournament Championship of the past seven years after battling back out of the loser's bracket for the first championship win since the 2015 season. With the tournament title, Southern Arkansas served as the top seed and host of the Central Region Tournament, the 12th regional appearance for the program since 2004, and came a game away from reaching the DII World Series as they finished as Runner-Up in the Central Region. During the postseason run, Pettigrew's Muleriders went 9-1 when facing elimination.
Pettigrew led an SAU Baseball team that posted 41 wins; the most by the program since the 2013 season, which included a 22-11 mark in GAC play as well as eight wins over nationally-ranked opponents. It marked the 18th season that Southern Arkansas won at least 30 games.
The 2018 Muleriders received several individual postseason honors as seven players were named All-GAC, including "..of the Year" awards for both Player and Pitcher of the Year. Three players were awarded academic honors, with one being named a Google Cloud Academic All-America Third-Team selection. Additionally, four players were named All-Region honorees with two earning consensus recognition, while one player garnered All-America status from all three major DII Baseball outlets.
Pettigrew also coached the Natural State Player of the Year and saw three players sign pro baseball contracts, including a pair of draft picks in the 2018 Major League Baseball June Amateur First-Year Player Draft.
In his first season as head coach in 2017, Pettigrew was named the Great American Conference’s Coach of the Year as he continued the storied winning tradition of the Mulerider Baseball program. In doing so, Pettigrew led the team to its fourth GAC Regular Season championship in six years after posting an impressive 28-5 record in league play.
Overall, Pettigrew’s first year at the helm saw the Muleriders register a 39-16 record to extend a program-record of 30 or more victories to 17, while also advancing the team to their 11th NCAA Regional Tournament since 2004.
The team success in 2017 led to numerous individual awards and accolades that saw a total of eight All-GAC selections with “… of the Year” awards for Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Regionally, SAU had the consensus Central Region Player of the Year and a total of six Muleriders received all-region consideration. Finally, Pettigrew’s 2017 team featured a pair of All-America honorees with one being a first-team selection; the program’s first since 2010.
Prior to becoming the head coach, Pettigrew accrued over a decade of coaching experience with the Muleriders as he first joined the program in August of 2005 as the team’s pitching coach, a role he served in for 11 years through the 2016 season. Beginning in the 2011 campaign, Pettigrew added the title of associate head coach.
With Pettigrew as the pitching coach, the Mulerider pitching staff consistently ranked in the top of the conference in many key statistical categories. Additionally, Pettigrew mentored 11 pitchers that moved on to play professional baseball. Of those 11 pitchers to move on past SAU, eight were drafted in the Major League Baseball draft.
In 2010, Pettigrew served as the pitching coach for a first-round MLB draft pick, who was also named the National Pitcher of the Year and runner up for the Tino Martinez Award (Top Division II player).
Prior to his appointment at SAU, Pettigrew was at Great American Conference-rival Arkansas Tech University where he was the pitching coach for five years (2001-2005).
A graduate of Lake Hamilton High School, Pettigrew played junior college baseball at Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, La., and Connors State College in Warner, Okla., before transferring to play for the Wonder Boys, where he finished his career in 2000.
Pettigrew received his B.S.E. in health and physical education and his M.Ed. in physical education (2003), both from Arkansas Tech. He is married to the former Corrie O’Dell of Magnolia. The couple have a son, Maddox, and a daughter, Emma.
Adam Anderson enters into his third season as the Muleriders’ pitching coach and is entering his tenth overall with the program after beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 2010. Additionally, Anderson is responsible for the Muleriders’ strength and conditioning program as well as maintaining the baseball facilities at Walker Stadium at Goodheart Field.
This past season, Anderson saw his Mulerider pitching staff lead the conference in earned run average (4.35), increase their previous season's strikeout total by 97 with a league-leading 508, and post a league-low opponent batting average of .245.
All three of SAU's weekend starters in 2018 ranked in the league's top nine in ERA, which included the league leader, while the team's ace also led the league with 109 strikeouts on his way to earning GAC Pitcher of the Year honors as well as multiple All-Region accolades. Additionally, the trio all earned All-GAC honors.
SAU's top two relievers, a pair of closers with one having garnered All-GAC honors, in terms of strikeouts and appearances were both selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball June Amateur First-Year Player Draft.
In his first season as pitching coach, Anderson guided a Mulerider pitching staff that logged the second-most innings in the Great American Conference with 465.0. The staff also struck out the second-most batters overall in the league with 411 strikeouts collectively.
Two of SAU’s starters in 2017 would win at least 10 games on the mound, while the Muleriders’ go-to reliever posted a sub-1.00 ERA with seven saves over 24 appearances for the season. All three of those arms garnered All-GAC recognition as well.
Overall in his time on staff, Anderson has helped coach pitching staffs that have been ranked at the top of the conference in several key statistical categories on a yearly basis. Anderson has also helped oversee the development of five pitchers that have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft since 2011.
In addition to his duties at SAU, Anderson previously coached four summers with the Liberal Bee Jays of the Jayhawk Summer Collegiate Baseball League.
In summers of 2012 & 2013, Anderson was the pitching coach for the Bee Jays, while his final two seasons in Liberal, 2014 & 2015, Anderson served as the head coach. As head coach, his 2015 team would finish 3rd in the National Baseball Congress World Series Tournament.
Before joining the coaching ranks, Anderson was a junior college transfer to SAU from Hill College (Hillsboro, Texas) in 2008.
Over his final two seasons as a collegiate player, Anderson pitched for the Muleriders and helped SAU go 98-23 (.810) and advance to Region Tournaments each season. In his senior season of 2009, Anderson helped SAU attain a No. 1 national ranking, win the program’s first Gulf South Conference West Division title, and later its second GSC Tournament Championship.
Originally from Ajax, Ontario, Anderson received his B.A. in history in 2009 and his M.S. in Kinesiology in 2011, both from SAU. Anderson is married to the former Amanda Pharr and the couple reside in Magnolia.
Brandon Stover enters into his second year as an assistant baseball coach at Southern Arkansas and will continue to serve as hitting coach as well as recruiting coordinator for the Muleriders.
In his first season directing the Mulerider hitters, Stover was instrumental in guiding the SAU bats to a .295 average (582-for-1970) with a Great American Conference-leading 202 extra-base hits, including 112 doubles, 16 triples, and 74 home runs. Southern Arkansas boasted the third-highest slugging percentage in the league at .481, while posting league-leading totals in runs scored (453), hits (582), RBI (404), doubles (112), walks (269) and total bases (948).
The Muleriders, 2018 Great American Conference Tournament Champions, and top seed in the Central Region Tournament came a game away from punching the program's first ticket to the Division II World Series. Stover coached a trio of All-GAC performers that were vital to SAU's postseason run, including the league's Player of the Year who went to be named a consensus All-America performer.
Prior to coming to SAU, Stover spent 14 years as an assistant coach at Abilene Christian University, and most-recently, he had a year-long stint as an assistant at Hardin-Simmons University.
In his year at Hardin-Simmons, Stover coached one All-American Southwest Conference (ASC) First-Team selection with a total of five offensive players earning all-conference honors.
At Abilene Christian, Stover was an integral part of building the Wildcats’ baseball program into a perennial national power among the Division II ranks, and helped transition ACU to Division I in 2014.
Stover first came to ACU as a player in 1999 and played four years for the Wildcats. Each year, ACU won over 40 games, and in Stover’s final three seasons, the Wildcats captured Lone Star Conference (LSC) division and tournament championships.
As the Wildcats’ everyday first baseman in 2002, Stover became just the fifth Wildcat in school history to be named all-America, earning third team honors by ABCA/Rawlings after leading ACU to 45 wins and its third straight LSC title.
The MVP of both the LSC South Division and the LSC Post-Season Tournament as a senior, Stover hit .415 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI during his all-America campaign. He finished his career with a .354 career batting average (159 for 449) with 15 home runs and 94 RBI. He also clubbed 31 doubles and accumulated 247 total bases.
Stover then remained at ACU as a graduate assistant coach in 2003 and helped lead the Wildcats to the DII World Series that year. The following year, Stover began a 13-year run as a full-time assistant, holding titles of hitting and infield coach, recruiting coordinator and ultimately associate head coach prior to the 2015 season.
In terms of Wildcat player accolades over his tenure at ACU, Stover helped produce more than three dozen all-conference honorees in addition to having three players named league MVP with two more selected as the conference freshman of the year.
All-told, Stover’s time at ACU saw 11 seasons with 40 or more wins, which included a school-record 50-win campaign in 2010. Additionally, Stover helped lead the Wildcats to five LSC Championships with three coming as a player and two as a coach.
In addition to his collegiate coaching at ACU, Stover spent time coaching summer league baseball and in the summer of 2007, Stover led the Derby (Kan.) Twins to the team's first Jayhawk League championship and a third-place finish at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. The Twins finished the regular season with a 36-14 record.
The previous summer (2006), Stover was named Head Coach of the year at the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kan. Stover led the underdog Twins to a 7-2 record in the World Series before they finally lost to the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Forresters, 9-8, in the championship game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
A native of Abilene, Stover graduated from Abilene Cooper High School in 1998 after a stellar two-sport career. As a senior at Cooper HS in 1998, he hit .459 with three home runs and 26 RBI and picked up two wins on the mound. He was all-District 4-5A in both 1997 and 1998 and team MVP in 1998. He also quarterbacked the 1997 Cooper football team to its first outright District 4-5A championship since 1979, with the team falling in the Regional Finals to the eventual 5A state champion.
Stover graduated from ACU in 2003 with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies with a Minor in Business. In 2018, he graduated with his MS in Sports Administration from Arkansas State University.
He and his wife, Kate, were married in June 2003 and have two children, Eydie (9) and Gavin (6).
Graduate Assistant Coach
Hayden Simpson enters into his second season as a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater where he was a two-time All-America pitcher for the Muleriders.
In his first season on the Mulerider staff, Simpson assisted SAU Pitching coach Adam Anderson with a unit that led the conference in earned run average (4.35), increase their previous season's strikeout total by 97 with a league-leading 508, and post a league-low opponent batting average of .245, while making a run to the championship game of the Central Region Tournament.
A native of Magnolia, Simpson was a two-sport athlete in high school, earning All-State honors in football and baseball. As a quarterback. After High School, Simpson remained in his hometown and played baseball collegiately the Muleriders from 2008-2010.
During his sensational three-year career at SAU, the Muleriders compiled a 145-32 record and competed in the NCAA DII regionals each year, reaching the finals in 2010. As a starting pitcher, Simpson posted a 35-2 career record with a 2.39 ERA in 271 innings pitched with 323 strikeouts and 7 shutouts. Simpson’s stellar career also saw him throw a no-hitter vs. Culver Stockton, notch a 15-strikeout performance against West Alabama, and log a program-record 42.2 scoreless inning streak in 2010.
In terms of accolades, Simpson was a three-time All-Gulf South Conference West Division First-Team pitcher and was named as the GSC West Division Freshman of the Year in 2008 and the Player of the Year in 2010. Regionally, Simpson was a two-time consensus All-Region First-Team selection while also being the consensus Regional Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
On the national level, Simpson was runner-up for the Tino Martinez National DII Player of the Year in 2010 and was a consensus National DII Pitcher of the Year as well as an All-America First-Team selection that year. The year prior, Simpson earned his first consensus All-America First-Team honor.
Following his junior year at SAU, Hayden was the 16th pick in the 1st round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago Cubs. Simpson would go on to play in the Cubs’ minor league system with stops in Peoria, Daytona and Boise.
Named to the GSC’s All-Decade Team as well as the Pitcher of the Decade for the 2000s, Simpson was recently inducted to the SAU Sports Hall of Fame as part of the 2017 class.
Simpson, who earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science in 2016 presently lives in Magnolia and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology-Coaching.
Graduate Assistant Coach
Nick Spini enters into his second season as a Graduate Assistant at Southern Arkansas and will continue to serve as an assistant hitting coach and catching coach. Before coming to SAU, Spini served as the hitting coach during the Fall 2017 semester at Solano Junior College.
In 2018, Spini assisted Mulerider Hitting coach Brandon Stover and saw the SAU bats notch Great American Conference-leading totals in runs scored (453), hits (582), RBI (404), doubles (112), walks (269) and total bases (948).
As a player, Spini played at Great American Conference rival, East Central University in Ada, Okla. In his senior season, Spini led the Tigers and the GAC in batting average (.430), doubles (20), and on base percentage (.497). Additionally, he was third in conference in hits (64), and eighth in both total bases (90) and slugging percentage (.604). That year, Spini became the first baseball player in the school’s NCAA DII history to be named an All-America performer as he received honorable mention recognition from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).
Before his time at ECU, Spini was a stand-out at Solano Junior College in his hometown of Fairfield, Calif. where he helped lead the Falcons to their second regional appearance in three years during his sophomore campaign. Spini also received All-Bay Valley Conference First-Team honors for his efforts.
Spini graduated from East Central University in 2015 with a BS in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Before pursuing coaching. Spini spent two years as a Vector Control Technician for the Solano Mosquito Abatement District in California. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Kinesiology at SAU and hopes to be a Head Coach and instructor at the university level one day.
Graduate Assistant Coach