Jerry Edwards enters his fourth season as UNCG’s pitching coach in 2016.
Edwards continued to mold the Spartan pitching staff during the 2015 season as junior RHP Ryan Clark (Second Team) and rookie RHP Andrew Wantz (All Freshman) earned All-Southern Conference recognition at the end of the campaign.
Clark was taken by the Atlanta Braves with the 150th pick in the third round of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft marking the third-straight season in which a UNCG pitcher has been drafted. Under Edwards’ watch, four Spartan pitchers have heard their names called by MLB squads.
Among league members in 2015, the Spartans finished tops in the SoCon in fewest hits allowed, second in fewest runs allowed and third in fewest earned runs allowed and fewest home runs allowed. Individually, Clark ended up third in opposing batting average, fourth in strikeouts and fifth in both earned run average and wins. Wantz checked in at second in fewest walks allowed and third in both fewest runs allowed and fewest earned runs allowed.
The UNCG pitching staff helped lead the team to a number of big wins in 2015 as the Blue and Gold defeated two ranked teams in No. 24 Liberty and No. 17 North Carolina as well as NCAA participants NC State, UNCW and Mercer. The Spartans also finished fifth in the Southern Conference standings – their highest ranking since 2011.
Edwards saw two of his pitchers selected in the 2014 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft as junior Max Povse was taken in the third round by the Atlanta Braves, senior Dylan Thompson was drafted by the Rockies in the 31st round and signee Alex Durham was scooped up by the New York Mets in the 12th round. Povse is the second-highest draft selection in program history.
UNCG allowed just 16 home runs during the 2014 campaign, besting every other team in the Southern Conference by a margin of at least 14. Additionally, sophomore Ryan Clark built on a solid freshman season by finishing eighth in the league in earned run average at 3.68 over 93 innings pitched.
The pitching staff earned some individual accolades as rookie Adam Swim (4-2, 2.28) earned Southern Conference All-Freshman Team honors and junior Tyler Frazier (1-3, 2.28, four saves) was tabbed the league pitcher of the week April 14 after picking up three saves in four contests – at Wake Forest and two in the series victory at Georgia Southern.
Edwards mentored a number of young Spartan pitchers during the 2013 season, including Southern Conference All-Freshman selection Clark. Developing into the Spartans' top option out of the bullpen, Clark produced a stellar rookie season in which he was 5-1 overall with a 2.05 earned run average and two saves in 26 appearances. He struck out 25 batters in 30.1 innings pitched and walked just five. Clark allowed just one earned run in his last nine outings and gave up just four extra-base hits the entire season.
Under Edwards’ tutelage, Povse excelled as UNCG’s Friday starter. Povse enters the 2014 campaign as the 99th-rated player in the nation by College Baseball Daily and the top professional prospect out of the Valley Baseball League. Povse struck out a team-best 81 batters in 77 and two-thirds innings pitched in 2013 while racking up four wins in 14 games started. He dazzled in the Spartans’ 12-0 road victory over College of Charleston (April 5) as he produced his first career complete game shutout allowing just five hits and striking out seven.
Eastern Kentucky senior right-hander Matt Fyffe was named the 2012 Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year under Edwards’ watch, finishing the regular season with a 9-0 record and a 1.51 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched. He stifled opposing hitters, holding them to a .209 batting average. Fyffe’s nine wins led the OVC while his 1.51 ERA paced the league and ranked seventh in the nation.
The Colonel’s pitching staff experienced revitalization under Edwards in 2011, lowering its season ERA nearly two points from 7.48 in 2010 to 5.61 in 2011. With Edwards' instruction, senior right-hander Stephen Hefler, who transferred to EKU from Kaskaskia College in 2010, dropped his ERA from 8.23 in 2010 to 3.77 in 2011 and transformed into one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the Ohio Valley Conference - becoming just the second EKU pitcher to earn first team All-OVC honors since 1990. Junior right-hander Matt Harris also blossomed under Edwards last season, lowering his ERA from 9.58 in 2010 to a team-best 2.77 in 2011. Against OVC competition, Harris, who started the year in the bullpen but transitioned into a starter later in the season, posted a miniscule 0.59 ERA of while batters hit just .168 against him.
In 2010, Edwards developed a relatively unknown freshman right-hander out of Georgia named Anthony Bazzani. Due to the persistent guidance of Edwards, Bazzani was transformed into one of the top pitchers in the OVC by May. He was named the league’s Pitcher of the Week after he worked all nine innings, allowed one earned run, scattered seven hits and struck out six against Jacksonville State on May 15. He then led the Colonels to their first OVC Tournament win since 2007 as he dominated Murray State on May 26, going eight innings and nearly setting a neutral site OVC Tournament record with 10 strikeouts. Bazzani finished the season with a 5-3 record, led EKU in innings pitched (77.1) and opponent batting average (.282) and was named to the OVC All-Freshman Team.
Edwards inherited a 2009 pitching staff that had lost nine of 14 arms from the previous season. Only two of his pitchers recorded a win in 2008 and none of them worked more than 30 innings. However, Edwards was able to piece together a group composed primarily of raw underclassmen, freshmen, and career relief pitchers. The staff ended up producing 31 wins.
Before coaching at EKU, Edwards spent two years at North Carolina Wesleyan College as an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator under current North Carolina head coach, Mike Fox. During those two years, he helped lead North Carolina Wesleyan to the 1999 Division III National Championship.
Edwards arrived at EKU from Louisburg (N.C.) College, where he was the pitching coach. While at the two-year college, Edwards had nine of his pitchers sign with Division I schools, and two of his pitchers were taken in the top 12 rounds of the MLB Draft and signed professional contracts.
Before Louisburg, Edwards served as the head coach at Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tenn. While at Hiwassee, he mentored a pair of MLB draftees. In between his stints at EKU and Hiwassee, Edwards was an Associate Scout for three years with the Atlanta Braves under the guidance of Area Scouting Supervisor Billy Best.
Edwards began his coaching career at the Enfield Academy in Whitakers, N.C. under the tutelage of current East Carolina head coach, Billy Godwin. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from North Carolina Wesleyan College in 1999, and he received a master’s degree in physical education/sports administration from EKU in 2001.
Edwards and his wife, Amy, are the parents of two children – Jacob (15) and Claire (12).