NORMAL, Ill. (Purdue Sports) — Purdue pitching coach Steve Holm was a big part of the Boilermakers' quick two-year turnaround, earning him the opportunity to become the head coach at Illinois State.
ISU Director of Athletics Larry Lyons announced the hiring of the former big leaguer Friday. Holm joined Purdue in the summer of 2016 after beginning his coaching career as an assistant at Sacramento State (2013-16). Head coach Mark Wasikowski and his two-year assistants Wally Crancer and Holm reshaped a program that was 10-44 in 2016 into an NCAA Regional qualifier with a 38-21 record just two seasons later.
"Steve is a very smart and well-calculated baseball mind," Wasikowski said. "He was a critical part of the Purdue baseball program's turnaround over the last two years. Illinois State made an outstanding decision hiring Coach Holm. He is a proven winner!
"With our program going in the right direction, Boilermakers are going to be in high demand. That applies to both the MLB Draft and opportunities for our assistant coaches. He earned an opportunity to be a head coach with his great work an assistant, both at Purdue and Sacramento State. He had a huge impact on the big improvements of our pitching staff. I couldn't be happier for Steve, his bride Lindsey, and his wonderful young family!"
"I am extremely excited to be the new head coach at Illinois State University," Holm said. "I'd like to thank Dr. Larry Dietz, Larry Lyons, and Peyton Deterding for trusting me to lead the program and the 35 young men within it. There are a lot of people who have helped me get to this point, including both Reggie Christiansen and Mark Wasikowski. I am forever grateful to both of them for the opportunity they gave me as an assistant coach. Most importantly I'd like to thank each and every one of my players who have played for me. I promised my wife when she moved to California that I'd get her back close to her Midwest roots and without the efforts of those players this never would have been possible."
Holm's pitching staff was a big part of Purdue's 38-win season and NCAA Regional bid in 2018. The Boilermakers qualified for the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in program history thanks to an 8-1 start and 21-3 surge from April 20 to May 27. The pitching staff compiled a 3.01 ERA and 1.34 WHIP during the memorable 24-game run late in the season, which featured a pair of 13-game win streaks (overall and home).
After the season, staff ace Tanner Andrews was selected in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins. He was Purdue's highest-drafted pitcher since 2012. Closer Ross Learnard registered a program-record 15 saves and earned third team All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball. After Learnard's single-season record 0.58 ERA led to second team All-America honors from the NCBWA in 2017, he became the first Boilermaker to be a full-fledged All-American in consecutive seasons.
In Holm's two years with the Boilermakers, the team ERA improved from 5.27 in 2016 to 4.91 in 2017 to 4.00 in 2018. The team WHIP dropped from 1.61 in 2016 to 1.44 in 2018. After being a catcher in pro ball, Holm also helped the team's catchers improve defensively. Nick Dalesandro started the final 33 games of the season at catcher and was also drafted in the 10th round this year.
But most importantly, the Boilermakers' 28-win improvement from 2016 to 2018 will go down as one of the most dramatic and ascendant turnarounds in the history of Purdue Athletics. The Boilermakers ended a four-year Big Ten Tournament drought in 2017 and finished second in the Big Ten this season, both in the final standings and at the conference tournament.
"Our goal was to find the best person to lead our baseball program back to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference and to compete for postseason opportunities. In addition, we were looking for the best person to continue our high level of academic success and personal development of the young men in our program. Steve brings all of that and many more intangibles," Lyons said. "We feel Steve's background as an All-American shortstop, a professional catcher and collegiate pitching coach gives him the ability to make our team immediately better in every facet of the game. His success in helping programs improve in relatively short periods of time is impressive, and we are very excited Steve and his family have chosen to join the Redbird family."