Top Candidate For Pitching Coach Emerges

Warhawk Nation has the name of the leading candidate and the likely replacement for Dax Leone on the ULM baseball coaching staff. Details Inside!

Lipscomb University assistant Lantz Wheeler is the leading candidate and the likely replacement for Dax Leone on the ULM baseball coaching staff.

Wheeler just completed his fourth year as an assistant coach for the Nashville, Tenn., program, where his primary focus was pitching. Leone recently left ULM after three seasons as pitching coach and made a return to his native Oklahoma.

At Lipscomb, Wheeler has been credited with the development of ace Rex Brothers, who was the 34th pick in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. The Colorado Rockies nabbed Brothers in the supplemental round held at the end of the first round.

In 2007 the Lipscomb staff was ranked in the top 50 in the country with a 4.24 earned run average. In 2006 the staff was ranked in the top 25 in strikeouts with 421. The staff has also included several All-Conference performers. In 2007 Brothers was named 2007 Freshman of the Year in the A-Sun.

Lipscomb's team ERA of 6.19 ranked sixth overall in the conference in 2009. However, in Atlantic Sun games, the Bisons were third in the conference at 4.68. Lipscomb finished 17-13 in the conference and earned the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun tournament.

In 2009, Brothers finished 5-5 with a 3.26 ERA. He struck out 132 batters in 94.0 innings, the eighth-highest single-season strikeout total in A-Sun history. He ranked fifth in the NCAA in strikeouts and earned a spot on the All-Atlantic Sun's First Team.

Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand praised Wheeler for helping Brothers reach his potential.

"A lot of guys can throw the ball hard, but if they can't locate it, then it doesn't do them any good," Forehand told the school's official Web site, Lipscombsports.com. "He has learned how to locate his pitches. He and coach Wheeler have spent a lot of time on that.

"I think that is where the experience and maturity come in. He was a hard thrower when he got here. Now he is at a level where he knows that even if he doesn't have his good stuff, he is still pretty good."

According to MLB.com, "Brothers was gaining as much helium as any pitcher in the draft class as the spring wore on. He'd always been intriguing because of his arm strength that delivers a fastball that can touch 96-97 mph and a pretty good slider. He took a leap up this season, thanks to a better understanding of how to pitch and the ability to find the strike zone more consistently."

Wheeler enjoyed team success at Lipscomb, which won the Atlantic Sun Baseball championship in 2008. The Bisons made a splash in the NCAA Regionals in their first game by beating eventual national runner-up Georgia. With Brothers pitching in 2007, Lipscomb also beat LSU in a regular season game in Baton Rouge.

Wheeler's experience recruiting and coaching in a competitive state like Tennessee should also make him a good fit at ULM. Lipscomb carved its own niche while competing in the region with Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee.

Prior to joining the Lipscomb coaching staff Wheeler served as the pitching coach at St. Catherine College, a junior college in St. Catherine, Ky., from 2003-2005. His pitching staffs at St. Catherine posted the lowest ERA in NJCAA Division II in 2004 and 2005. Their combined record during those two seasons was 87-18.

Wheeler played for both Paducah Community College in Paducah, Ky., and Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky. He graduated from Morehead in 1998 with a B.S. degree in Exercise Science.

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