No stranger to the program, Ryan Marken, a former player and now in his first season as head coach, helped guide the Cougars in his three previous seasons as assistant coach to two consecutive Crossroads League Tournament championships and NAIA National Championship Opening Round appearances.
As a player, Marken ('10) was part of SAU teams that won three conference titles and made two NAIA World Series appearances, including one in 2007 where the team finished as the national runner-up. His class would go down as the winning class in program history putting together back-to-back 40-win seasons with records of 48-5 and 40-9, including a remarkable 36-game winning streak in 2007.
"This program is so much bigger than me," added Marken. "The rich tradition and the level of excellence that has been on display for the last 55 years is something I hope to continue to build upon. To have the opportunity to replace two Hall of Fame coaches in (Hank) Burbridge and Riggleman is incredible. To even have my name in the same sentence as those two is pretty surreal. To be able to step in for Sam, my mentor, at the years end is an honor. That man has done so much for my career and my faith walk, and I'm so thankful to him and his wife."
In addition to his time coaching in the college ranks, Marken spent five years as the head coach of the Indiana East Lake Chargers, an elite baseball academy summer travel team headquartered in northern Indiana. As part of the Chargers' staff, Marken has helped develop and graduate over a dozen players who have gone on to play high level collegiate baseball. His 17U team has amassed a .766 winning percentage playing against the best teams in southern Michigan and northern Indiana.
Marken is also the founder and co-director of the Next Level Baseball Academy, a highly touted camp circuit that puts on skills and leadership development training camps for youth baseball players around the Midwest. NLBA gives baseball's "next" generation access to collegiate and professional level instruction that otherwise wouldn't be available.
"SAU has helped shape who I am today," noted Marken. "My walk with the Lord was built and strengthened here. I met my beautiful wife here. My brother graduated from here. My sister is currently enrolled here. This place has been my home away from home. I'm thrilled to have the chance to build upon the storied history of this program. I'm excited to continue the expansion of the Kingdom at such a wholesome place. To be able to help mentor and develop young men the way Sam did for my life is my greatest anticipation. I hope when it's all said and done I'm seen as a minister disguised as a baseball coach. I love this university and I'm elated to be able to give back!"
Newcomer Colin O’Connell will join the SAU Baseball staff for the upcoming 2016 season, bringing with him an impressive litany of coaching and playing experience.
O’Connell comes on as the Primary Assistant Coach and will work predominately with pitchers and catchers; an area where he has excelled at various stops in his career. Colin is no stranger to the program however, as a player (2010 graduate) he was part of Cougar teams that won three conference titles and made two NAIA World Series appearances, including one in 2007 where the team finished as the national runner-up. His class would go down as the winningest class in program history, putting together back-to-back 40-win seasons, and a remarkable 36-game winning streak in 2007. Individually, O’Connell is one of the most decorated players in Cougar history, having been honored twice as an NCCAA All-American.
His impressive playing career has only been surpassed by what can be called an outstanding coaching career, where he has been a part of winning teams at every stop. For the last 4 years O’Connell worked on staff with the Indiana Eastlake Chargers, an elite baseball academy for some of the top highs school prospects in the Midwest, where he served as the pitching instructor and assistant coach. The work included extensive player development and also collaboration with collegiate coaches and MLB scouts. The organization sends numerous players to high level collegiate baseball programs each year.
O’Connell’s coaching pedigree also includes a 2 years stint as the head coach of the NFWB Cobras out of Farmington Hills, Michigan. Colin has also volunteered as a pitching instructor at Head Coach Ryan Marken’s Next Level Baseball Academy, where the pair expose youth to elite developmental training, getting them in front of multiple collegiate players and coaches.
In addition to an impressive coaching resume, O’Connell has also worked as an educator and an Athletic Director at Holly Academy for the last 5 years.
O’Connell earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Spring Arbor University, during his time as a student athlete.
“We couldn’t possibly be more excited to have Coach O’Connell joining the staff. His expertise and ability to develop pitchers and catchers is at the highest level. He also very much embodies the values we espouse as a University. Using baseball as a platform to equip young men, glorify God, and help young people become excellent in many critical areas of their lives. We are a much better team for having him on our staff.” – Head SAU Baseball Coach Ryan Marken