Former Lakeside High School athlete Jamie Rigdon is now in his eighth season as head baseball coach at Savannah State University, where he is building quite a legacy.
The school made the jump to Division I last year, and while Savannah State's teams have stuggled mightily in basketball and football, Rigdon's baseball squad is a different story.
The Tigers are off to a 5-1 start on the diamond this season, and were ranked sixth nationally among historically black colleges.
In his seven full years at the helm, Rigdon has put together quite a resume. He has compiled an astonishing 255-85-1 record, and what's more, Rigdon's teams have averaged more than 36 wins per season at a school that had never won 30 games in a year prior to his arrival.
All of this, and Rigdon has yet to turn 32.
He took over the program in 1997 and promptly led the Tigers to a 31-17 season, which was the best mark in school history.
Who could have known that eight years later, that first campaign would be Rigdon's worse at Savannah State?
In 1998, the team posted a 39-9-1 record, and the next year Rigdon and the Tigers notched 38 wins and earned the school's first trip to the NCAA regionals.
The 1999 season also was highlighted by Savannah State center fielder Brandon Jackson, who became the first Tiger to be selected in the Major League baseball draft. Anaheim picked Jackson in the 16th round.
The following year was an incredible season for Savannah State. Despite playing without a chance to secure a postseason appearance (because of the school's imminent move to Division I), Rigdon's squad went 46-3, and won a NCAA-record 46 straight games.
Over the past three seasons, the Tigers have won 37, 30 and 34 games respectively. Last summer, two Savannah State stars were chosen in the Major League draft, as first baseman Clay Cleveland and catcher Jeffrey Urgelles both were selected by Cincinnati.
Though Rigdon has established himself as one of the best young college baseball coaches in the country, he has not forgotten his roots. Rigdon regularly comes back to the CSRA to recruit players, and this year the Tigers feature three local players, including former Lakeside standouts Tim Paige and Carlos Markyna.
Both ex-Panthers are expected to play prominent roles this season at Savannah State.
Paige, a senior outfielder, hit .263 last season, with 11 stolen bases and 25 runs scored in just 30 games.
Markyna, a pitcher and infielder, had a huge freshman season on the mound. In 2003, he posted a team-leading 2.96 earned run average, and in 12 appearances he went 6-2 with 39 strikeouts in 54 innings of work.
Also, in his eight starts, Markyna pitched four complete games.
I've known Jamie Rigdon for a long time, and I don't expect him to be slowing down any time soon. Considering his youth and consistency, he is on pace to catch some of college baseball's winningest coaches.
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