Steve Gillispie served as the head baseball coach at Youngstown State during the 2013-16 seasons and led the Penguins to the first victory in an NCAA Regional in program history in 2014. He finished his career with a 61-153 overall record and a 28-75 mark in Horizon League play.
Gillispie came to YSU with a reputation as an experienced recruiter, talent evaluator and instructor ready to be a Division I head coach. After spending 11 seasons helping to build Jacksonville State into a powerhouse in the Ohio Valley Conference, he took the Penguins back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade in just his second year.
After a regular season in 2014 that was littered with weather-related scheduling irregularities, newcomers struggling with development as a result and players filling in outside their positions due to injuries, the Penguins finally played up to their potential when it counted. With the coaching staff keeping spirits high, Youngstown State swept through the Horizon League Tournament as the No. 6 seed to earn the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Youngstown State beat top-seeded Wright State twice, including in the championship game, as well as the No. 3 Valparaiso and No. 4 Milwaukee to win the tournament crown. Youngstown State led the Horizon League Tournament in batting average (.340), runs per game (7.5), ERA by starting pitchers (1.85) and fielding percentage (.993).
As if that wasn't impressive enough, Gillispie's group went on to earn the program's first victory in the NCAA Tournament, a 5-2 win over Indiana State in the Bloomington Regional. The Penguins also played Indiana, the No. 4 overall seed, and Stanford in the Regional.
In 2016, Gillispie’s final season as a Penguin, YSU had several memorable victories. The Penguins swept a doubleheader at Missouri on March 12, rallying for a 4-3 win in the ninth in game one and holding on for a 3-2 victory in game two. It was the first time the Penguins beat a team currently in the Southeastern Conference since they won at Missouri in 2004 when the Tigers were in the Big 12. The Penguins had not beaten a true SEC team since a win at Kentucky in 1988.
YSU had arguably an even more-impressive victory in their home finale on May 17 when they beat Kent State 11-10 as the Golden Flashes were ranked 28th in the country by Collegiate Baseball. It was Youngstown State’s first win over a ranked team since April 18, 1999, against No. 29 Oral Roberts.
On the individual level, outfielder Kyle Benyo was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team after batting .283 in conference play. Collin Floyd, another freshman, showed his long-term potential by leading the Penguins in strikeouts and having the most strikeouts by a Penguins lefthander in 10 years.
The Penguins improved in several areas in 2015, Gillispie's third year at the helm of the program. They continued to show the ability to compete against some of the top programs in the country with a 5-5 record versus teams that went to the NCAA Tournament. YSU also beat four teams ranked in the top 100 of the RPI, including No. 17 Radford. For the year, YSU had its most regular-season victories since 2010, its lowest ERA since 2008 and its most saves since 2005. Most notably, YSU increased its winning percentage for the third straight season while also upping its strength of schedule, which is something that only three other teams in the country could boast.
Frank Califano, one of eight Californians on the roster that GIllispie's staff recruited, was one of the top players in the Horizon League. He hit safely in the final 24 league games of the season, which helped him hit a league-best .383 against conference foes. A First-Team All-Horizon League selection as an outfielder, he also ranked second in the conference with 19 stolen bases. Califano was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 19th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft.
While the tournament run was the pinnacle of the 2014 season, the Penguins had several other highlights in Gillispie's second season. The Penguins beat Kent State twice in the same season for the first time in 35 years while also defeating Pittsburgh.
On the individual level, senior Phil Lipari closed out his career with a memorable senior season. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the Horizon League Tournament and to the All-Tournament Team at the Bloomington Regional. The second baseman hit .444 over the final 16 games of his collegiate career. He was joined on the Horizon League All-Tournament Team by seniors Patrick O'Brien and Josh White and freshmen Jeremy Quinlan and Shane Willoughby.
In his first season as the Penguins' manager, Gillispie increased the program's win total and largely upped the competitiveness with a much tougher schedule compared to the year prior to his arrival. Statistically, the team improved across the board. The offense had a higher batting average and score more than a half run more per game on average. The pitching staff also lowered its ERA by almost a run.
Gillispie's first victory as a Division I head coach came at Samford on Feb. 17, 2013, and the Penguins beat West Virginia five days later. It was YSU's first win over a Big 12 program in school history. The Penguins also won a series against Wright State for the first time since 2006, and they won at Kent State, a 2012 College World Series participant, for the first time since 2005.
On the individual level, third baseman Drew Dosch was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the seventh round of the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He became the highest position player from Youngstown State to be selected since 1991, and he was one of 10 Penguins to be taken in the draft since 1999. Dosch repeated as a First-Team All-Horizon League and Second-Team Academic All-America honoree as the league-leader in on-base percentage and OPS.
Additionally, Lipari and White were voted second-team all-conference, and White, Nick DiNello and Lance Horner were named to the all-newcomer team.
As Jacksonville State's hitting coach and recruiting coordinator, Gillispie helped lead the Gamecocks to nine 30-win seasons in an 11-year period from 2002 to 2012. JSU went 152-79 in OVC games since joining the conference in 2004 and won the regular season or tournament title five times in nine seasons. Gillispie has also served as an assistant coach at Nebraska, Utah and UAB, and he was the Southeastern Area Scouting Supervisor for the Philadelphia Phillies for four years. He has 25 total years of baseball experience at the NCAA, Major League and junior college levels.
Within four seasons at Jacksonville State, Gillispie and head coach Jim Case turned a program that averaged 18.7 wins in the three years prior to their arrival into a conference champion. The Gamecocks won regular-season titles in 2005 and 2008 and advanced to the NCAA Regionals in 2004, 2006 and 2010. Jacksonville State also set an OVC record by winning 23 conference games in 2008, and JSU became the only team in OVC history to beat the No. 1 ranked team in the nation when it defeated Georgia in 2009.
On the individual level, Gillispie recruited or developed a two-time OVC Player of the Year, three OVC Freshmen of the Year, 23 first-team all-conference players, eight freshmen All-America picks, a TPX All-America selection and 135 academic all-conference student-athletes. Additionally, 19 Jacksonville State players were drafted or signed contracts with Major League teams in Gillispie's 11 seasons in the dugout. Gillispie's contributions were recognized by his peers as he was voted the OVC assistant most-ready to be a head coach each of the past four years. He was also named the Four-Year College Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 by the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association.
Prior to his time at Jacksonville State, Gillispie signed 19 players into the Phillies organization as the Southeastern Area Scouting Supervisor from 1998 to 2001. He was the hitting and outfield coach at UAB in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, and he served as an assistant coach and interim head coach at Utah in 1995. Gillispie's first Division I experience came in 1990 and 1991 at Nebraska. The Huskers went 79-48 in those two seasons, and Gillispie recruited three players who went on to earn First-Team All-America honors. One of those signees was eventual No. 1 overall draft pick Darin Erstad.
Gillispie's first head coaching experience came at Fort Hays State in 1988 and 1989. He went on to spend the 1992 and 1993 seasons as an assistant at Mendocino Junior College and the 1994 season as an assistant at Lassen Junior College.
Gillispie, originally from Beatrice, Neb., played collegiately at Northwest Missouri State and Fort Hays State. He is married to the former Denise Lamar from Birmingham, Ala., and the couple has a daughter, Morgan.
Gillispie's Coaching Timeline
- 1988-89 — Fort Hays State (Kan.) Head Coach
- 1990-91 — Nebraska Assistant Coach
- 1992-93 — Mendocino (Calif.) Junior College Assistant Coach
- 1994 — Lassen (Calif.) Junior College Assistant Coach
- 1995 — Utah Assistant Coach/Interim Head Coach
- 1996-97 — UAB Assistant Coach
- 1998-01 — Philadelphia Phillies Southeastern Supervisor of Scouting
- 2001-13 — Jacksonville State Assistant Coach
- 2013-16 — Youngstown State Head Coach