Lenoir-Rhyne has announced that Chris Ramirez has been hired to become the university’s 20th head baseball coach.
Ramirez comes to Hickory from the University of Illinois Springfield, where he spent the past six seasons as the head coach of the NCAA Division II program and built the Prairie Stars into contenders.
"I'd like to thank President Dr. Fred Whitt and athletic director Kim Pate for the incredible opportunity to be the head baseball coach at Lenoir-Rhyne," Ramirez said via the press release. "Their commitment to do what it takes to be one of the best athletic departments in the country is undeniable and it shows by the energy surrounding every team and coach on campus. I'm truly honored and extremely excited to lead this program. My family and I are looking forward to joining the L-R family as well as the Hickory community."
Ramirez had a combined 199-122-1 record in his six seasons at UIS. This season, he guided the Prairie Stars to a 41-17-1 record and an appearance in the NCAA Division II Super Regional tournament. UIS was ranked as high as No. 3 in the country in 2019.
The 2018 season was the best in UIS history as Ramirez led the team to a 47-9 mark, a Regional appearance and a high of No. 4 in the national polls. Those successes led the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association to name Ramirez its Division II national coach of the year.
"I couldn't be more excited for Chris Ramirez to join our Bears family and head up our L-R baseball program," Pate said via the release. "It's certainly a unique and rare opportunity to get to work with a talented coach like Chris not just once but twice. I had the special privilege of watching Chris develop a program from its infancy to a national contender.”
Pate previously worked with Ramirez at UIS when she served as the athletic director there.
“Chris is an incredible coach, visionary leader, and most importantly will build a program of character that our players, faculty, alumni, and community will take great pride in,” Pate continued. “What excites me the most is the opportunity for our players to experience a coach who is going to develop them, inspire them, and help them to be successful both on and off the field."
Prior to UIS, Ramirez spent six seasons as a Division I assistant coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He served as the recruiting coordinator and third-base coach while helping the Islanders reach the Southland Conference tournament in their first season as a program. He has also served as an assistant at Southeastern Community College in Iowa.
Ramirez played two seasons at Division I-level High Point University, where he graduated in 2005 with a degree in business administration.
Ramirez replaces Tom Fleenor, who left the Bears after the 2019 season with a 23-27 overall record and a 7-17 mark in South Atlantic Conference play. Fleenor was placed on paid administrative leave for the final eight games of the season, though the university did not provide a reason for that decision. He went 150-136 in his six years at Lenoir-Rhyne.