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Drew Dickinson enters his fourth year as Illinois' pitching coach in 2014-15, after serving two stints as a volunteer assistant coach in 2009 and 2011. Dickinson oversees the development of the pitching staff and is instrumental in recruiting for the Fighting Illini. He has been a part of Illinois' two NCAA Regional berths in 2011 and 2013.
During the 2014 season, Illinois' pitching staff shined on the mound, setting the school record with a 3.25 team ERA, breaking the mark of 3.43 from 1976. In the final NCAA stat rankings, Illinois ranked seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.92), eighth in walks allowed per nine innings (2.37), 40th in WHIP (1.25) and 49th in ERA (3.25), which was the fourth-best earned run average in the Big Ten.
The 2014 Illini hurlers also set school records in Big Ten play (24-game schedule) for ERA (3.54), eclipsing their previous mark of 4.16 from 2013, and strikeouts (157), surpassing their mark of 135 from 2013. The 157 strikeouts also rank as the most punch outs in any Big Ten season, topping the previous mark of 155 during a 32-game season in 1997.
He guided Tyler Jay, who made the Team USA Collegiate National Team roster during the summer, to second-team All-Big Ten and All-Region recognition. Ronnie Muck was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels following the season.
In 2013, Dickinson's young pitching staff, which featured two freshmen and a sophomore in the postseason rotation, lowered its ERA by more than a run from 2012 from 4.77 ERA to 3.76 ERA, which ranks as the lowest mark since 1976 (3.43 ERA). His staff nearly boasted a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (316 K to 162 BB) and held opponents to a .267 average.
He coached Freshman All-American and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kevin Duchene to one of the best debut seasons in Illinois history, which was capped off with a victory at the Nashville Regional. Duchene, who was named second-team All-Big Ten, turned in a team-best 2.79 ERA and tied for the second-most wins in the Big Ten with a mark of 9-1, which broke the Illini school record for most wins by a freshman. Senior Kevin Johnson also broke the school record for career innings pitched (334 IP) and became the second pitcher coached by Dickinson to be drafted when he was taken by the Athletics in the 24th round.
Dickinson was a part of Illinois' magical run to the 2011 Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships, serving as a volunteer assistant and first-base coach. In 2010, he served as the pitching coach for the Schaumburg Flyers of the independent Northern League. Dickinson was Illinois' volunteer assistant coach in 2009 while he finished his degree after a seven-year professional playing career.
Dickinson hit the recruiting trail and found immediate success after his hiring in August 2011, landing a pair of top-30 pitchers in the state of Illinois in lefty Kevin Duchene and right-hander Nick Blackburn, as well as projectable lefties Tyler Jay and J.D. Nielsen. He added depth with the 2013 class, including top-30 pitcher/outfielder Cody Sedlock and two-way players Ryne Roper and Matthew James.
In 2012, Dickinson guided the Illini pitching staff to its best ERA since 2005 with a 4.77 mark, 0.20 lower than in 2011. Illinois also posted a 1:1 hits to innings pitched ratio (464:464), compared to 533 hits in 499 2/3 innings in 2011. Before last season, the last time an Illinois staff had a 1:1 or better ratio in those categories was in 2000, when Dickinson and volunteer assistant coach Jason Anderson were part of the staff.
He tutored junior Matt Milroy in 2011, guiding the right-hander to a 3.88 ERA in 20 appearances with 65 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings. Milroy parlayed that into an 11th-round selection by the Miami Marlins in the 2012 MLB Draft, becoming Illinois' highest-drafted pitcher since Matt Vorwald in 2001. Kevin Johnson and freshman John Kravetz teamed up to become one of the top starting duos in the Big Ten, combining for a 15-8 record and 176 innings pitched. Johnson also broke the school record for career innings pitched in Big Ten play in his final start of 2012, with 153 2/3.
Starting pitcher Kevin Johnson was Illinois' No. 1 starter in 2011, pitching 103.0 innings, the most by an Illini pitcher since Dickinson threw 114.2 in 2002 and the eighth-most in school history. Reliever Wes Braun also earned All-Big Ten third-team honors after going 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA and six saves. And reliever Chris Pack was lights-out, tying for the team lead with eight wins as he went 8-1 with a 4.70 ERA in 51 2/3 innings of work.
Following Dickinson's professional career, he served as Illinois' volunteer assistant coach in 2009, helping guide the Illini pitching staff to its lowest ERA since 2005. He then served as pitching coach for the Northern League's Schaumburg Flyers in 2010, leading them to the third-best ERA in the league after finishing last the three previous years. He also helped guide freshman hurler Will Strack to third-team All-Big Ten honors as he went 6-1 with a 3.84 ERA.
A 2009 graduate of Illinois, Dickinson holds a B.S. in communication. He was selected in the 28th round by the Oakland Athletics in the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft Dickinson is one of the best pitchers in Illinois history, earning third-team All-American honors by Collegiate Baseball and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors in 2001, and third-team Collegiate Baseball All-American laurels again in 2002. He shares the school records for career wins and wins in a Big Ten season, and holds the UI record for innings pitched in a Big Ten season.
In addition, he ranks third in career strikeouts and fourth in career innings pitched, and his 53 strikeouts in Big Ten play in both 2001 and 2002 are tied for third in school history. Dickinson also holds the record for innings pitched in a Big Ten season with 63 in 2002, and his 148 Big Ten innings rank third in school history. He pitched 115 1/3 innings in 2001 - third-most in school history - and 114 2/3 in 2002 - fourth-most in school history.
Dickinson was a two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection and reached the double-A level with the Oakland A's. He was a 2003 Midwest League all-star and was named a Top 25 Prospect in the A's system in 2004.
The Drew Dickinson File
Updated September 2014