The Citadel hires former Gamecock Blake Cooper as new pitching coach

Blake Cooper, credit: The Citadel Athletics

The Citadel has added former professional pitcher Blake Cooper to its baseball staff as pitching coach, head coach Tony Skole announced Wednesday, July 12.

Cooper was selected in the 12th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his senior season at the University of South Carolina he helped lead the Gamecocks to their first baseball national championship. He returned to Columbia to start his coaching career as a student assistant in 2016, assisting with pitchers and serving as first base coach for two seasons.

"I'm extremely excited to have Coach Cooper and his family become part of The Citadel's baseball family," Coach Skole said. "Our cadet-athletes are going to benefit from his knowledge and experience at the highest levels of baseball. Coach Cooper has a tremendous history in the state of South Carolina, which will allow us to strengthen our network and recruiting in the Southeast. He has a great passion for coaching and a wonderful competitive spirit. More importantly, he has tremendous character and integrity, which is important to me and this program. His outstanding work ethic and passion will radiate to both our current and future cadet-athletes. I'm excited to watch him develop relationships with our team and witness the great impact he will have on their careers."

During his two seasons on the coaching staff at South Carolina, Cooper helped the Gamecocks earn 81 victories. In 2016, South Carolina won 46 games, including the Columbia Regional, and advanced to host a Super Regional.

"First and foremost, I am excited to be part of The Citadel family and the rich tradition that the baseball program embodies," Coach Cooper said. "I look forward to working alongside Coach Skole and his staff while developing our pitchers. I know our strong work ethic as coaches and cadet-athletes will allow The Citadel baseball program to return to success."

Cooper saved his best collegiate season for last, earning third-team All-America and first-team All-SEC honors on the national championship squad. He finished the season 13-2 with a 2.76 earned-run average and 126 strikeouts in 137.0 innings pitched. His final start was an eight-inning gem allowing one run in a 7-1 victory over UCLA in the championship series at the College World Series. In his two starts in Omaha that season, Cooper pitched 13.2 innings, struck out 16 and allowed only three walks. He also was named to the NCAA Columbia Regional All-Tournament Team for his performance in the opening round of the postseason.

As a junior, he was named to the NCAA Greenville Regional All-Tournament Team after earning a complete-game victory over host East Carolina, allowing only two runs with six strikeouts in the 12-2 win. His sophomore season culminated in his first all-region team, earning the recognition in the NCAA Raleigh Regional after pitching 8.1 innings with one earned run and a then-career-high nine strikeouts in his start. As a freshman he appeared in 17 games with 11 starts and compiled a 7-2 record, earning a spot on the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America Team.

Cooper climbed as high as AAA in the Diamondbacks' organization before being traded to the Cubs' organization in 2014. Throughout his six-year professional career, Cooper appeared in 250 games and recorded 297 strikeouts in 315.1 innings pitched. He retired following the 2015 season with 23 career victories and a 3.05 career ERA.

Cooper earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from South Carolina in 2017.

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