Rick O'Dette returned to his alma mater as head baseball coach in September of 2000. Through 14 seasons he has compiled a record of 409-338-3, with a 261-214 mark in the Great Lakes Valley Conference games.
The Pumas still maintained one of the best pitching staffs in the GLVC in 2013, producing a 4.41 ERA. SJC's 334 strikeouts placed second in the league behind Drury. The pitching staff led the GLVC with 7.55 strikeouts per game. SJC finished 19-31 overall with a 14-22 mark in the GLVC. O'Dette reach career win No. 400 on April 5th as the Pumas defeated the University of Wisconsin Parkside 12-5 at Gil Hodges Field.
O'Dette and the Pumas ended a five year absence from the NCAA Tournament in 2013. SJC finished fourth in the GLVC East with a 24-12 record in league play and a 30-20 mark overall. The Pumas were selected as the fourth seed in the Midwest Regional before the season ended in the second round by Bellarmine University in 12 innings. SJC had one of the nation's most prolific pitching staffs in 2013 as the Pumas finished with the best strike-out to walk ratio and walks per nine innings in DII baseball. SJC's 2.88 team ERA ranked 11th in the country.
Under O'Dette's guidance, Jordan Peterson became the GLVC Pitcher of the Year as well as Midwest Region Pitcher of the Year. Peterson is the third Puma slinger to be tabbed as the conference’s Pitcher of the Year since the award’s inception in 2002. Mike Stitz garnered the first postseason accolade for SJC in 2005, while Blaine Cravens was the last to be honored in 2008.
In the last 10 years O'Dette has compiled a record of 303-230-1 and 204-148 in the GLVC including a regular season conference title in 2005 and NCAA Regional appearances in 2005, 2008, and 2013. O'Dette has led his alma mater to two of the top three win totals in program history, with 42 in 2005 and 46 in 2008.
He collected his 200th head coaching victory on April 17, 2007 against Lewis University and picked up his 250th win on April 26, 2008 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. O'Dette won his 300th career game on April 2, 2010 with a come-from-behind 13-10 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Just as important as the on-field success achieved by the Pumas during O'Dette's tenure, they have also garnered accomplishments off it. SJC has placed numerous athletes on the conference All-Academic team and kept a 3.4 team GPA while winning 46 games in 2008.
Every player that has expired his eligibility with the program has earned a degree under O'Dette. A native of Tinley Park, Ill., O'Dette was a member of the SJC baseball team from 1995-97. He finished his career was a record of 15-3 on the mound and was named to the All-Region Team in 1996 and the All-GLVC team in 1997. He helped the 1996 squad to a National Runner-up finish at the Division II World Series in Montgomery, Ala.
Following his junior season, O'Dette was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 15th round of the 1997 amateur draft. He played at four different levels within the Red Sox organization.
Prior to his return to SJC O'Dette worked as a professional instructor for Championship Sports Academy in Tinley Park, as well as the Chicago White Sox Training Center. He also spent two summers as the head coach for the Upper Deck Cougars Baseball Organization out of Palos, Ill. The Cougars finished in fourth place at the World Championships both years.
He resides in Rensselaer with his wife Sherry (SJC '98) and their children Ricky (10) and Alyssa (6).
Ryan Wheat joined the Saint Joseph’s College coaching staff prior to the 2012 season. Wheat is currently SJC's recruiting coordinator and hitting coach. In addition to working with the hitters, Wheat also works defensively with the catchers.
In 2012 the Pumas held a .277 team batting average with 72 doubles, 13 triples, 21 homeruns and 227 RBIs. SJC averaged over five runs a game while coaxing nearly three walks a game. Catcher Kolin Conner and outfielder Charlie Dennehey earned All-Region honors. Dennehey led the team with a .374 batting average while Conner was third on the squad with a .309.
Wheat began his collegiate playing career at Spalding University in Louisville, KY. His career was highlighted by a senior season in which the team went 55-23 winning the KIAC conference tournament as well as becoming the Region XII and Super Regional Champions. Immediately following his playing career he became a member of the Pelicans coaching staff and assisted four years at Spalding. In his eight seasons with Spalding, both as a player and coach, the program made three World Series, three Super-Regionals, and six Regional appearances. Spalding also won seven conference regular season/tournament championships in the eight years.
After his stint with Spalding, Wheat joined the coaching staff at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY. As an assistant from 2007-2009, Wheat worked with the catchers as they ranked inside the top three in conference catching statistics each season. Wheat also was the assistant hitting coach for the Eagles in 2009 when they bolstered a .324 batting average, with 107 doubles, and 90 homeruns.
Following Morehead State, Wheat became the head coach at DeSales High School in Louisville, KY., taking over a program that posted a 16-14 record in 2009. During the 2010 and 2011 season, Wheat led the Colts to a 52-18 overall record that featured a 22 game winning streak. DeSales also went on to win two District Championships and make two Regional Final Appearances. In his two seasons at the helm of DeSales, Wheat had 11 players go on to play college baseball. In addition to becoming the DeSales Head Coach, Wheat was an Associate Scout with the Boston Red Sox. In his two years, he was responsible for covering the entire state of Kentucky as well as organizing and running pre-season workout for prospects in the area.
During his coaching career, Wheat has had 13 players that have signed professional contracts, five of which are catchers. Wheat has coached numerous All-Conference players and five All-Americans.
Wheat earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Spalding University in 2006. He and his wife Rebekah currently reside in Rensselaer.
Eric Bunnell was became the assistant baseball coach at Saint Joseph’s College in August of 2013. Bunnell will assist with the development of the infielders as well as help in the SJC recruiting efforts.
Bunnell comes to SJC after a three-year stint as an assistant with Lake Erie College, where he specialized working with the Storm's defense and strategy. He also served as the team's first base coach on gamedays.
His first two years with the Strom were the best in school history, as the Storm won 48 games during that time and qualified for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Tournament for the first time in 2012. LEC collected 66 victories in three seasons after an 18-30 mark in 2013.
Prior to Lake Erie, Bunnell spent two seasons as an assistant at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. While at NCC, Bunnell worked with the 2010 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) championship and NCAA regional qualifiers. That followed a four-season stay at his alma mater, Mount Union College, where the Purple Raiders twice made playoff appearances.
Bunnell was an All-Ohio Athletic Conference player at Mount Union, earning all-league accolades in 2003 and All-Tournament Team recognition in 2002 when he helped lead his team to the conference championship game.
During the summer months, he coached the Stark County Terriers of the wood-bat Great Lakes Summer League for four seasons (2006-09), including the last two as head coach. He was named the league’s manager of the year in 2008 after guiding the Terriers to a franchise record 26 wins. He continues to work with area youth travel team and writes the popular Coach's Cave baseball coaching-themed blog.
Bunnell holds a bachelor’s degree in Business and Marketing from Mount Union. He earned a master’s degree in Liberal Studies from North Central. A native of Conneaut, Ohio, he currently resides in Rensselaer.