First-year Wright State baseball coach Alex Sogard pitched for two elite college programs, Oregon State and North Carolina State. He also played seven years professionally, getting drafted by the Houston Astros and working his way up to Class AAA.
Though reaching to the Major Leagues was always the goal, Sogard made sure he was never so focused on that objective that he wasn’t prepared for life after baseball.
“I was fortunate to play for a lot of good college and pro coaches. They helped me along my journey,” he said. “I always wanted to get into coaching. Everywhere I went, I picked up some things and saved them for when I was a coach.
“A lot of the time, it was picking my teammates’ brains. That was something I did a lot. I always enjoyed studying the game and asking players who were better than me, ‘Why do you do this?’ Or, ‘What are you thinking when you do that?’ I just wanted to see why they were having success.”
Sogard, the Raiders’ pitching coach the last two seasons, will begin applying some of those insights throughout the program when practice begins Monday. The season starts with a three-game series Feb. 15-17 at Mississippi.
One thing he won’t have to concern himself with is building a winning culture. That already was established by previous coaches Ron Nischwitz, Rob Cooper, Greg Lovelady and Jeff Mercer, and Sogard has seen it in the players’ commitment to offseason workouts.
“I’m very fortunate that we have a good staff here. There wasn’t much of a transition. I was able to keep the assistants. And the players are awesome. They make the transition easy because they show up every day ready to go,” he said.
“The foundation was built by coach Nischwitz and then, obviously, Cooper, Lovelady and Mercer. We’re just going to try to keep the train rolling.”
Asked to describe his style of play, Sogard, 31, said: “The biggest thing is you’re going to win with good pitching and good defense. I tell our guys, ‘Limit your mistakes. Whoever plays a cleaner game is going to win.’
“I think this program has done that anyway. We’re still a good offensive program. We run a lot and are pretty aggressive. But at the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to win 2-1 if you’re designed that way.”
The Raiders are. They finished 49th among 297 Division-I teams in 2018 in earned-run average (3.80) and 27th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.87). They also set a program season record for strikeouts.
They finished 39-17 and won the Horizon League regular-season and tournament titles . They played in the NCAA tourney for the third time in four years.
Wright State fans will have a chance to hear about Sogard’s vision for the program at the 15th annual First Pitch Banquet at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1. The guest speaker is Hall of Fame sports writer Hall McCoy, who first started covering the Cincinnati Reds for the Dayton Daily News in 1973.
It’s a fundraiser for baseball scholarships. Individual tickets cost $80, and VIP tables of 10 can be reserved for $1,200.
For info, contact Sogard at (937) 775-3668 or go to WSURaiders.com.
“It’s a great event,” Sogard said. “We’re excited to have Hal, a guy from the area who’s very well known. It’s a fundraising event, but it’s a unique opportunity to spotlight the success of our student-athletes and to show them to our alumni and local businesses and community. It’s a great night to celebrate the program.”