Chris Howell was named the sixth head coach of the Augusta University baseball program on Tuesday, August 2, 2016 and he begins his first year at the helm for the 2017 season.
Howell spent the 2016 season as the top assistant for the Jaguars and oversaw the pitching staff before being promoted to the head position.
“Chris has all that it takes to be our next head baseball coach at Augusta University. This is a position that he has been preparing for throughout his baseball career,” Director of Athletics Clint Bryant said. “He is an exceptional young man and coach who impresses everyone that he encounters. His tremendous leadership abilities will translate not only to success on the field, but to the growth and development of our student-athletes academically and personally. We are excited about him taking over our baseball program and we look forward to the continued improvement of Augusta University baseball under his direction.”
During his first season in Augusta as the pitching coach and assistant to former head coach Jason Eller, the Jags earned a No. 18 national ranking and a 29-22 overall record – the first winning season for the team since 2008. Augusta made their first Peach Belt Conference Tournament appearance since the 2011 season, while two Jaguars were named All-Region Players of the Week and three named PBC Players of the Week.
Howell came to Augusta and the CSRA after spending the 2015 in the Peach Belt as a top assistant at Young Harris College.
In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Howell enjoyed a stint at Middle Georgia State College as an assistant coach. Howell was the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the Knights during those two seasons.
Howell began his coaching career at his alma mater Tiftarea Academy – a private school in Chula, Ga. During his four-year stint with the Panthers baseball program, Tiftarea won the 2009 GISA Class AA State Championship and was runner-up the following year. Howell garnered state Coach of the Year accolades in 2009 and Region 3-AA Coach of the Year honors in 2009 and 2010 while at Tiftarea
A native of Fitzgerald, Ga., Howell was a three-time, all-state and four-time, all-region player at Tiftarea before starting his college career at Pensacola Junior College.
He pitched two years in the Panhandle Conference and furthered his career to the University of Tennessee where he pitched two years for the Vols. His career with the Vols ended strong by helping his team advance to the 2005 College World Series in Omaha, Neb., as a senior.
After college, Howell pitched two years professionally for the Los Angels of Anaheim organization. He earned his bachelor's degree in education from Tennessee and an associate degree from Pensacola.
On Sept. 6, 2015, Howell married the former Kori Pickowitz in Hiawassee, Ga.
Augusta native and former professional baseball player Josh Whitaker joined the athletics staff in September 2016 as the assistant baseball coach for the Jaguars.
"We are excited to bring Josh into the Jaguar program,” Howell said. “He brings years of professional playing experience and an infectious energy back to his hometown of Augusta. We are lucky to have him on the staff and can’t wait for the 2017 season.”
Whitaker was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 25th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft from Kennesaw State University. He spent seven seasons in the minor leagues as a primary outfielder and first baseman. Whitaker spent his first six seasons in the Oakland system before heading to Pennsylvania to compete with the Lancaster Barnstormers.
For his pro career, Whitaker competed with the Lancaster Barnstormers (2016), Midland RockHounds (2015, 2014, 2013), Sacramento River Cats (2014), Stockton Ports (2013, 2012), Arizona League Athletics (2013, 2010), Burlington Bees (2011), and the Vancouver Canadians (2010).
In 2016 as a starting outfielder for the Lancaster Barnstormers (Lancaster, Pa.) in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, Whitaker hit .285 with 65 hits, 30 RBI, and 33 runs scored. His 20 doubles were the fourth most for the team and his six long balls were the eighth most.
Over his seven seasons of professional baseball, Whitaker posted a .277 career batting average with 83 home runs, 599 hits, and 354 RBI. He totaled 148 doubles and nine triples in his 573 games played.
Born Josh Wesley Whitaker in Grovetown, Ga., on Feb. 8 1989, the new assistant returns home to the CSRA to assist Howell and the program. Whitaker attended Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., after spending high school at Augusta Christian in Martinez, Ga.
He played four successful years of varsity baseball at Augusta Christian School where he was named the SCISA AAA Statewide Player of the Year after his senior season. An All-State, All-Region and first team All-County selection his senior year, Whitaker helped lead his team to three-straight AAA high school state championships.
In the summer of 2016, Whitaker obtained his bachelor’s degree from Ashford University. On Feb. 7, 2014 he married Katelyn Whitaker. They have two children, John-Wesley and Whitley.
Zach Murray made his way to Augusta in the fall of 2011 to continue his baseball career as a Jaguar after he graduated from Washington Wilkes High School in Wilkes County, Ga., in 2011.
Murray spent most of his collegiate career as a catcher while also getting playing time as a second basemen and third basemen. As a junior in 2014, Murray started 29 games and ranked fifth on the team in doubles and walks and was second in triples.
In his first year with the coaching staff in 2016, Murray was an assistant hitting coach, catchers coach, and first base coach. He helped the team to a No. 19 national ranking. The 2016 Jags ranked 11th in the nation in batting average (.334) and eighth in the nation in doubles (130). The offense also had the least amount of strikeouts in the Peach Belt Conference and the catchers led the league in runners thrown out (.435).
In 2016 Zach Murray finished his degree from Augusta University graduating with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology with a concentration in exercise science.