WKU Baseball: Tops add new assistant coach to staff

WKU Baseball head coach John Pawlowski announced the hiring of assistant coach Ben Wolgamot to the Hilltopper staff on Thursday morning. Wolgamot comes to The Hill from Valparaiso University, where he had been an assistant coach since 2013.

“The WKU Baseball program is very excited to have Ben Wolgamot and his family join us,” Pawlowski said. “As a former All-Big Ten performer at Purdue with seven years of Division I collegiate coaching experience, Ben will have an immediate positive impact on our program and our student-athletes.

“Ben is a great addition to our staff, as he brings energy, passion and a proven track record of developing players to The Hill. Serving as the recruiting coordinator while running the offense over the past four years at Valpo, he has shown the qualities that will certainly help us continue to build our foundation of success here at WKU.”

“My family and I are thrilled to join Coach Pawlowski, the WKU Baseball program and the Bowling Green community,” Wolgamot said. “With the facilities and resources here to develop student-athletes both on and off the field, I’m excited to get to work and help the Hilltoppers get to the top of Conference USA.”

Wolgamot will become the hitting coach for WKU, while fourth-year assistant coach Rob Reinstetle will step into a role of recruiting coordinator for the Hilltoppers. Reinstetle was the recruiting coordinator during previous coaching stints at Ole Miss (2007-09) and South Alabama (2006).

At Valpo, Wolgamot was the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for the Crusaders. In his five years, he helped the program grow into a top-hitting club in the Horizon League, then helped in the team’s transition to the Missouri Valley Conference last season.

In 2018, Valpo smacked 107 doubles and 41 homeruns – each the fifth-most in program history. The Crusaders reached 100-plus doubles for the third straight season after they had posted only one such year since 2001. The 41 homeruns were the most since 2002, while the team’s .404 slugging percentage was its highest since 2010.

Outfielder Blake Billinger earned First Team All-MVC honors after slashing .323/.391/.523 with seven homeruns, 40 runs scored, 46 runs batted in and a program record-tying 23 doubles. Infielder Sam Shaikin drew 43 walks, which was the third-most ever by a Crusader. Overall, Valpo worked 248 base-on-balls, which was also the third-most by a team in program history.

In the 2018 MLB Draft, the Texas Rangers selected catcher Scott Kapers in the 17th round with the 507th overall pick. He became the third-highest selection in program history and first Crusader position player to be drafted since 2013. With Wolgamot’s help in the batter’s box, Kapers improved from a .196/.278/.257 hitter as a freshman to .263/.354/.383 as a junior.

In 2017, Valpo led the Horizon League in doubles (100) and fewest strikeouts per game (6.2). Outfielder James Stea – who slashed .290/.420/.475 with eight homeruns, nine doubles, 21 stolen bases, 44 runs scored, 32 runs batted in and 23 times hit by pitch – was named First Team All-Horizon League.

With a .971 fielding percentage in 2017 followed by a .973 mark in 2018, Valpo set a program record in back-to-back seasons.

In 2016, Valpo saw five of its hitters accrue All-Horizon League recognition following a slugfest season. Overall, the offense led the conference in batting average (.288), hits per game (10.1), doubles (109) and fewest strikeouts per game (5.9). The team’s 586 hits, 377 runs scored, 339 runs batted in, 109 doubles and 809 total bases all represented top-five marks in Crusaders history.

First Team honorees Nolan Lodden (.356/.451/.472 slash line with 83 hits and 57 runs scored) and Shea Molitor (.309/.412/.438 slash line with 53 runs batted in) moved into the single-season top-five lists for those respective hitting statistics, while Daniel Delaney also earned a spot on the team. Meanwhile, Josh Clark and Nate Palace rounded out the Valpo bats with Second Team honors.

In 2015, Valpo improved its team slash line from .237/.324/.301 in the previous year to .275/.377/.368 with Wolgamot being named hitting coach prior to the season. Overall, the Crusaders improved in 15-of-18 offensive categories, including a school-record 260 walks drawn. First Team All-Horizon League shortstop Spencer Mahoney slashed .326/.441/.442 and worked 44 base-on-balls, the second-most ever by a Crusader.

Before his hiring at Valpo, Wolgamot was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Eastern Illinois University for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. In 2012, the Panthers ranked 12th in the country with 50 homeruns in 58 games and made a run to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship game, before falling to Austin Peay in the finals.

Wolgamot’s first coaching stint was in 2011 at Wabash Valley College, where he helped lead the Warriors to an NCAC Championship and the first NJCAA Regional berth in school history. At Wabash Valley that season was NCAC Player of the Year, first baseman John Holm, who also earned NCAC Tournament MVP, First Team All-Mideast Region and Honorable Mention All-American honors.

Wolgamot earned a bachelor’s degree in Health and Fitness from Purdue University in 2010 after starring for the Boilermakers as a junior college transfer from Danville Area Community College.

In his junior season of 2008, Wolgamot slashed .368/.479/.458 in 50 games and earned a spot on the All-Big Ten First Team. In conference play, he posted an otherworldly .426/.538/.521 slash line as Purdue went 21-10 in league action. Overall, the Boilermakers went 30-15 when Wolgamot started and 2-11 otherwise. In 187 fielding changes, he put up a .973 success rate and helped turn 24 double plays.

Originally from Danville, Ill., Wolgamot graduated from Danville High School in 2005 and went to play at DACC for two seasons. With the Jaguars, he was a back-to-back All-Region honoree and team MVP. As a sophomore, he hit .400 with 68 knocks, 60 runs scored, 35 walks and 27 stolen bases. At second base, he posted a .984 fielding percentage in 185 chances, earning Easton Defensive Player of the Year honors and a Rawlings Gold Glove.