WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Former Amherst College head baseball coach Brian Hamm has been named the seventh head baseball coach in the 71-year history of the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball program.
Hamm averaged nearly 25 wins a year with a .662 winning percentage in his nine-year career (2010-18) with the Mammoths. He replaces Matt LaBranche, who was 124-77 with two Little East Conference tournament titles in five seasons. LaBranche resigned in June to become the director of athletics at Western New England University.
“We are very excited to welcome Brian Hamm to the Eastern Connecticut State University family,” said Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier in making the announcement. “Brian emerged as our leading candidate from a highly competitive pool, and I am confident he is going to do great things. The Eastern baseball program has a tradition of success, and the expectations that accompany those successes are high,” added Runksmeier. “Brian has shown he can produce teams that win with character, and he has the passion to succeed as a Warrior. I believe he will meet our expectations and create great experiences for our baseball players.”
Hamm expressed his thanks to Eastern President Dr. Elsa Núñez, Vice President of Student Affairs Walter Diaz and Runksmeier, as well as the search committee “for the opportunity to serve as Eastern’s baseball coach. Under Lori Runksmeier’s leadership, the department enables its athletes and coaches to be successful through a supportive and positive culture. The great energy and spirit associated with the University and Athletics Department is exciting to join,” added the new head coach. “Our goal is to win championships and to do so in a way that honors the legacy of the baseball program and is in line with the mission of our university.”
A 2002 graduate of Middlebury College and a native of Terryville, Hamm spent the past 14 years at Amherst, the first four assisting legendary head coach Bill Thurston before succeeding the Hall of Fame coach in 2010. In nine years as head coach at Amherst, Hamm oversaw the winningest period in Amherst baseball’s 156-year history, winning 221 games and losing 113 (.662), leading the program to four NCAA Division III tournaments and two NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) tournament championships. Hamm’s teams were 96-35 (.725) in conference play and set program records for highest team batting average (.323) and lowest team ERA (3.12).
Hamm left Amherst after the 2018 season to return to Connecticut, where his wife, Maija Cheung, is a surgeon at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “Returning to Connecticut and coaching at one of our great public institutions is important to me,” noted Hamm, a product of the Terryville Public Schools System. “My family has a long history in sports in Terryville and in Connecticut, and to join the Eastern baseball family and represent our alumni is a privilege that I will do my best to honor. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do so with the young men that are on the team now. I’ve spoken with some of the players and it is clear that I am joining a wonderful group.”
During the 2018 season, Amherst compiled at least 20 wins for the ninth straight year in 2018 and won its second NESCAC championship in six years with a final record of 24-14. The No. 1 seed in the East Division of the NESCAC this past year, Amherst defeated Tufts, the No. 1 seed in the West, twice after a 3-2, 12-inning tournament-opening victory over Bates College to claim the title. At the conclusion of the season this past year, Amherst was ranked sixth in the final NEIBA Division III poll. The Mammoths made their first appearance in the poll – sharing fifth place – after claiming the NESCAC tournament crown.
Hamm was named NESCAC Coach-of-the-Year in 2011 and 2018.
In addition to qualifying for NCAA tournaments twice as the NESCAC champion, Amherst also qualified on an at-large basis twice. In four NCAA regional tournament appearances – each time being placed in the New York Region – Hamm’s teams won five and lost eight. The Mammoths won their first two regional games in 2013 and 2014 and in 2015 were beaten in the second round by eventual national champion SUNY Cortland.
In 2014, Amherst won a program-record 30 games and was ranked as high as No. 3 in New England and No. 22 in the final ABCA national poll.
During Hamm’s tenure at Amherst, four players were selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, two of them signing after their junior seasons.
In nine games against Eastern as head coach at Amherst, Hamm won four and lost five, winning each of the last three seasons.
As a college athlete, Hamm played baseball and soccer at Middlebury. In baseball, he was a four-year starter at shortstop (1999-02), where he batted .285 and still holds the career assist record of 323. He ranks in a tie for second at Middlebury with 104 assists in a season, holds the game record of six hits and shares the game record of five runs. In soccer, he was a three-year letterwinner (1999-01) at goalkeeper and an all-region and two-time first-team All-NESCAC selection, starting each of the 52 matches in which he appeared with a 0.81 goals-against average and 19.5 shutouts. He played on one ECAC Tournament and one NESCAC championship team and on squads that compiled a record of 35-11-7.
Upon graduation, Hamm spent three seasons as an assistant baseball coach at Middlebury (2003-05) before moving on to Amherst in 2006.
At Eastern, Hamm inherits a team that finished 25-16 last year — 10-4 in the Little East Conference — reaching the championship round of the Little East Conference tournament as the No. 2 seed. Six of the nine starters in last year’s final game are expected to return, as are all but one of last year’s pitchers. Top senior returnees are two-time all-region third baseman Alex Parkos (Meriden) and all-conference right-handed pitcher Jordan Muchin (West Hartford) and all-conference shortstop Dale Keller (Oxford).
“What stands out to me during the many conversations that I have with alumni, players and coaches is their passion and love for Eastern Connecticut and its baseball program,” said Hamm. “I have great respect for the many coaches and alumni who have worn the jersey and contributed to its meaning, and I look forward to learning more about Eastern’s long history from them.”
Hamm holds a B.A. Degree in Political Science from Middlebury and an M.S. Degree in Sport Management from the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management.