Bob Keller will lead MGCCC Baseball

Published 4:46 pm Saturday, July 3, 2021

PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast is bringing in a head baseball coach with a resume unmatched in the MACCC and probably the entire NJCAA.

Friday, the school announced the hiring of Bob Keller, who brings an impressive array of NCAA Division I conference championships and regional titles and appearances on his resume. For his part, Keller was equally impressed with what his new college has to offer.

“Gulf Coast has all the right pieces in place to put together a championship program both on and off the field,” he said. “That became obvious to me as we went through this process. I think it’s a place where we can do great things and move our men on to other places by helping them graduate to go onto four-year schools and possibly have a chance at Major League Baseball.”

Keller has also made his first assistant coach hire, reaching about five miles up the road to hire Wiggins resident Zach Allen for his second stint at Perk. More assistants will be announced at a later date.

Keller led pitching staffs at four different schools to a total of nine regionals, where his teams won twice to advance to super regionals. He’s had 51 players selected in the Major League Draft in 24 years of collegiate coaching.

“It’s not a secret, we just hit a home run with Bob Keller,” Gulf Coast Athletic Director Steven Campbell said. “I am very excited to bring aboard Coach K. His 25-plus years of experience in the MLB and Division 1 baseball is unparalleled in this conference. He is a true builder of young people and his impact at our institution and in our community will span much further than just on the diamond.”

Keller said his teams will be strong on the mound and in the field. He’ll be patient in building the program, not looking to cut corners. But he and his staff won’t sit back and wait for things to come to them. They’ll attack the recruiting trail relentlessly and make things happen. He wants high-character, high-makeup players with grit who will grind for their success.

Keller has been working with MLB and Team USA as part of its conversion of the storied Appalachian League into a summer college league. He’s been a roving instructor working with pitchers on the 10 teams serving as a national team development league. He was a scout for two years with the Seattle Mariners, and he’s been the Director of Alabama Operations for Knights Knation Baseball, a premier travel ball program, since 2020.

Keller spent seven seasons leading the South Alabama pitching staff, starting in 2012. The Jaguars won three Sun Belt Conference regular-season championships and one tournament title. They played in three regionals, including back-to-back trips in 2016-17. Kevin Hill became the first to win SBC Pitcher of the Year twice. He was a first-team All-American that year after being second-team the year before, and the Houston Astros drafted him in 2016.

Two USA pitchers went on to play in the majors: Ben Taylor and current Arizona reliever Matt Peacock.

He was at Michigan from 2005-10, where he had 18 pitchers named All-Big Ten. Ten of his hurlers went in the first 10 rounds of the draft, including four in 2005 alone. His units finished first or second in team ERA in the conference in three of his last four seasons there.

The Wolverines won three straight Big 10 regular-season championships starting in 2006. They went to three straight regionals and won the Nashville Regional in 2007. In the Corvallis Super Regional, Michigan lost to eventual national champions Oregon State. The next year, Michigan earned the right to host the Ann Arbor Regional and finished 46-14.

In his one season at Dallas Baptist, the Patriots won the Fort Worth Regional and went on to play against California in the Santa Clara Super Regional. They saw the team ERA lowered from 6.19 in 2010 to 4.73 and finished 42-20. Six pitchers on that 2011 staff were drafted.

Keller coached three seasons under legendary coach Brian Shoop at Birmingham-Southern. Six of his pitchers were drafted, and the 2004 Panthers went 47-18 on the way to the Big South regular-season championship. Birmingham-Southern participated in its first-ever NCAA Tournament when it appeared in the 2004 Athens Regional. Keller coached Connor Robertson at BSU, and he went on to pitch in the majors.

He started his college coaching career at Georgia State. His first year was in 1994 and was a hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator during his seven years there.

“I’ve been fortunate to be under some great coaches from Coach Mike Hurst at Georgia State, Brian Shoop at Birmingham-Southern, Rich Maloney at Michigan, Dan Heefner at Dallas Baptist and Mark Calvi at South Alabama,” Keller said. “I like to think I’ve learned a little bit of something from every single one of them, and I’ll try to mold all my experiences into this head coaching position at Gulf Coast.”

Keller was an outstanding two-way player at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif. He was a two-time NCCAA All-American, and he held school records for RBI and doubles and ranked second in hits and home runs when he graduated. His first start as a freshman was a complete-game win over Texas Tech.

He has a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Biola, and he got a second bachelor’s in health and kinesiology from Georgia State. Keller and his wife Jeannie have two sons, Charlie, 17, and Brady, 14.

“I just can’t put into words how excited I am to start this new chapter with Gulf Coast baseball,” he said. “I’m impressed with everything I’ve learned and seen as I watched it from afar. To be able to be in the trenches and see it first-hand and up close, it’s going to be real special. I’m really, really grateful and humbled for the opportunity.”

Zach Allen

Allen is a Pascagoula native who has lived in Wiggins since 2019. He was an assistant at Gulf Coast in 2019 when the Bulldogs went 29-18 and finished fourth at the Region 23 Tournament. He is known as a proven recruiter with a championship resume and was back at Jones in 2020.

“Bob is a very connected guy whose been around the game longer than I’ve been alive,” Allen said. “He knows his stuff, and I’m excited to learn from him. I get to recruit the Coast again. That’s closer to home for me, and that’s a big thing. Gulf Coast has a great tradition, and we’ve got to bring that back. I’m so familiar with the area, that’s what excites me the most.”

He played on the Jones team that advanced to the NJCAA Division II Baseball Championship final in 2011. He was an assistant coach on the 2016 team that won the title, where he concentrated on infielders, hitters and baserunners. The team went 100-13 during his three seasons there that stint at Jones.

Keller will put him in charge of the Bulldogs offense and make him recruiting coordinator.

“Zach has shown an ability to recruiting in our region and put together competitive teams,” he said. “I’m just excited with what I’ve seen him do from afar. When I was with Seattle, the players he was able to put together at Jones and at Gulf Coast, his reputation, his integrity and the way he gets after it and works is gonna pay big dividends for us.”

Allen also coached at Harrison Central High School in 2018 and was a volunteer assistant at Stone High in 2013-14.

He played college baseball at Jones, where the Bobcats finished as national runners-up, Point Loma Nazarene and William Carey. Allen is a graduate of Pascagoula High, and he has a bachelor’s in general studies from William Carey and a master’s in sports management from Southern Miss.

Allen is married to the former Devin Easterling, who was a Gulf Coast cheerleader. She’s a nurse in Wiggins, and their daughter Elizabeth is 1.

For more information on MGCCC’s 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.