LA JOLLA, Calif. - University of California San Diego baseball head coach Eric Newman has put together a brand-new staff for the two-time reigning NCAA Division II West Region champion Tritons. Newman announced the hires on Wednesday.
Jonathan Johnston, Bryson LeBlanc, Matt Harvey and Michael Ramazzotti are the incoming assistant coaches, with Johnston returning for a second stint in Newman's dugout. Justin Beck, UC San Diego's all-region and all-conference second baseman last year, remains in the program as an undergraduate assistant coach.
All four assistant coaches come off posts with current Division I clubs, with LeBlanc and Harvey joining from the Big West Conference. UC San Diego is headed to the Division I ranks as a member of the Big West beginning with the 2021 season.
Johnston, LeBlanc and Harvey all have University of California recruiting experience, and all four have strong California recruiting ties. Johnston and LeBlanc will handle the bulk of recruiting efforts for future Tritons, with Harvey, Ramazzotti and Beck providing support.
"We have experienced great success over the last couple years with a great coaching staff," said Newman. "With that, we also needed to commit to our future and continue to ensure the success of Triton Baseball, and with these new additions to our coaching staff, I am confident we have put ourselves in a great position for that. The future of Triton Baseball is in great hands with this tremendous team of coaches."
Johnston was with the Tritons for Newman's first three seasons from 2012-14, serving as the recruiting coordinator for the last two of those. He has been an assistant coach at UNC Asheville the past four years, also as the Bulldogs' recruiting coordinator. UNC Asheville earned a Big South Conference Championship berth in 2017, the program's first since 2012, and advanced to the semifinal round. The Tritons claimed three trophies during Johnston's initial stint in La Jolla.
Johnston graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2006, majoring in ocean engineering. A four-year starting catcher for the Midshipmen, Johnston was a decorated naval officer who achieved the rank of lieutenant.
JOHNSTON: "We're excited to get back out to San Diego. It's been an exciting time for the Johnston family. I am honored to be a part of Coach Newman's staff, and I'm very excited to be back with the Triton baseball family. I want to thank Coach (Scott) Friedholm in Asheville, N.C., for the opportunity he gave me there. It's time to get to work."
NEWMAN: "I am excited to bring Coach Johnston back to UC San Diego. Jonathan established himself in our time here as a top recruiter, catching and offensive-minded coach. Going through this search process, finding someone who had experience at UC San Diego, and was familiar with our goals as a university, athletics department and program, made Coach Johnston a very natural fit, and one that I am sure will be positive for our program."
LeBlanc heads south from UC Riverside, where he has spent the past seven years as an assistant, since August of 2011. That was after four seasons at Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon. He was a part of that program's return in 2009 after having been discontinued in 1981. LeBlanc helped coach 31 All-Big West honorees and 18 Major League Baseball (MLB) First-Year Player Draft picks during his tenure at UCR.
LeBlanc is a 2006 Missouri graduate in biological sciences. He played his final two years for the Tigers after transferring.
LEBLANC: "First, I would like to thank (former UCR head coach) Doug Smith and (current head coach) Troy Percival for the great opportunity they both gave me at UC Riverside. I am just as grateful to Coach Newman for the opportunity to work at a world-class institution such as UC San Diego. Through the hard work and dedication of the student-athletes and coaches, both past and present, Triton Baseball has earned a great reputation, and I am thrilled to now be a part of it."
NEWMAN: "I am happy to add Coach Bryson LeBlanc to our Triton baseball family. He brings great work ethic and experience to our program. He has been around great baseball people in his time spent at Oregon and UC Riverside. His reputation as a strong recruiter and hitting coach, will serve us well as we transition to Division I and the Big West. He is a great addition to Triton baseball and our athletics department."
Harvey has been at UC Santa Barbara for the past seven seasons, the first three as an assistant baseball strength and conditioning coach, and the last four as a volunteer assistant, and the Gauchos' pitching coach. He will take over pitching coach duties for the Tritons. UCSB went 231-167-4 (.580) during Harvey's time, with three NCAA Regional appearances and the program's first College World Series berth in 2016.
Harvey was involved in the baseball program as a student manager and bullpen catcher during his time at Nebraska from 2008-11, all while Newman served as the pitching coach there. He earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 2011.
HARVEY: "I am really excited to be joining Coach Newman's staff. His previous coaching staffs and teams have done an amazing job of creating a winning product on and off of the field."
NEWMAN: Coach Matt Harvey is a great addition to our staff, and will take over as pitching coach. Matt brings seven years of experience to our program, and an excellent resume of success over his time at UC Santa Barbara developing multiple pitchers who have gone on to professional baseball, while at the same time playing in multiple NCAA postseasons, including a trip to Omaha. His passion for pitching and development will continue the tradition of great pitching in this program."
Ramazzotti spent the past two seasons across town at the University of San Diego of the West Coast Conference. He was the director of baseball operations in 2017 and the volunteer assistant coach in 2018. The Toreros went 35-18-1 overall in 2017, and produced 11 selections over the last two MLB drafts.
Ramazzotti had prior stints at Santa Barbara City College in 2016, Mira Mesa High School and San Pasqual High School. A 2005 graduate of New Mexico Highlands in marketing, he played his final two collegiate years at the Division II school, earning All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) honorable mention as a senior.
RAMAZZOTTI: "I am extremely grateful to be a part of Coach Newman's staff. To be a part of the UC San Diego baseball program is an honor. I am excited to get underway and I am looking forward to working with these great coaches and players as we continue to strive to bring a national championship back to San Diego."
NEWMAN: "Coach Ramazzotti has experience coaching at multiple levels of baseball. He has a great work ethic and energy, and will do a great job with our infielders and hitters. Coach Ram is familiar with our program here at UC San Diego, and his desire to be a part of what we are building here was evident as we started to talk about him joining our coaching staff. We are fortunate to have him here in our program."
Beck was a one-year Triton in 2018 after spending his first three seasons at Division I San José State from 2015-17. The Upland product started 53 of 57 games played at second base during a two-trophy campaign, hitting .308 with 47 runs, 14 doubles, nine home runs, 41 RBI, 39 walks, and a .983 fielding percentage.
Beck picked up a pair of All-West Region distinctions, as well as All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Second Team honors. He is nearing completion of his UC San Diego undergraduate degree in communication.
BECK: "I'm excited to be staying on. I'm grateful for the opportunity. I'm looking forward to working with the guys and learning as much as I can."
NEWMAN: "I am always excited when former players want to coach in our program, and Justin established himself quickly in our program as a leader and coach on the field last year. Justin is going to be a really good coach, and I am proud that he wanted to start his experience here at UC San Diego and be a part of our Triton family as a member of our coaching staff."
Former pitching coach Justin James took his first collegiate head-coaching appointment back at his alma mater, Point Loma, with assistants Jeff Calhoon and Adrian Orozco, a former Triton pitcher, joining his first staff. Hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator J.T. Bloodworth had previously departed for an assistant coach position at future Big West foe UC Irvine. Troy Cruz, like Orozco a right-handed UC San Diego pitching great and 2017 graduate, has also left after six years on campus, to pursue other professional opportunities.
UC San Diego has two more seasons at the Division II level in the CCAA before joining the Big West. Newman's Tritons have won the past two West Region titles, achieving 40-plus wins each time. Included in that ledger was a record seventh CCAA tournament banner last May. Newman is also the two-time reigning American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings West Region Coach of the Year.