Head baseball Coach Justin Blood has helped reestablish the University of Hartford baseball program as a regional power.
Entering his seventh season at the helm in 2018, Blood owns 144 career victories, the most by any Hartford coach since the Hawks moved to Division I in 1985, and just two wins shy of tying Roger Wickman’s all-time record of 146 wins. Overall, Blood holds a 144-178 record (.447), including 68 victories in America East play. Blood's conference winning percentage (.450) ranks No. 1 in program history.
The Hawks battled injuries in 2017, playing to a 20-30 record, but saw three players selected in the MLB Draft: Catcher Erik Ostberg (13th round; Tampa Bay Rays), shortstop Ben Bengtson (23rd, Pittsburgh Pirates) and David MacKinnon (32nd, Los Angeles Angels).
Hartford was dominant in 2016, posting a program record 37 wins. It marked the second time in three seasons that the Hawks earned the No. 2 seed in the America East Conference playoffs, where the Hartford ultimately finished third. The 2016 Hawks helped rewrite the program's record book in the process, setting nine single-season team records and five individual single-season marks. Overall, Hartford ranked among the top five in program history in 25 statistical categories during the 2016 season.
In addition to the Hawks' then-record 31 wins in 2014, Hartford had three players drafted in the Major League Baseball First-Year player draft including left handed pitcher Sean Newcomb who was picked 15th overall by the Los Angeles Angels. Newcomb represents the highest draft pick in school history, a title that was previously held by Jeff Bagwell who went to the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round in 1989.
Under Blood's tutelage, the Hawks have had nine America East All-Conference First Team selections, 12 Second Team picks and six players named to the league’s All-Rookie squad. Blood also emphasizes the importance of academics within his program, evidenced by 19 America East All-Academic honors the Hawks have earned since 2012. Exemplifying Blood's commitment to athletics and academics, first baseman David MacKinnon was named America East Player of the Year, America East Male Athlete of the Year and America East Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2016. MacKinnon, who graduated in 2017, finished as the program’s all-time leader in hits (269) and runs scored (155).
Blood came to Hartford after spending six seasons at UConn as the Huskies' pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. He helped lead UConn to its most successful season in program history, which included a BIG EAST regular season championship and the first trip to the NCAA Super Regional’s. UConn ended the 2011 season with a 45-20-1 overall record and a 22-5 mark in BIG EAST play.
In Blood’s final season at UConn, the Huskies pitching staff finished the season with an ERA of 3.14, 23rd best in the nation in Division I. The Huskies were also eighth in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings (7.58). Blood coached right-handed hurler Matt Barnes to BIG EAST Player of the Year accolades and First Team All-America honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Barnes was the third player in UConn history to be selected in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft as he was taken 19th overall by the Boston Red Sox.
In 2010, Blood helped the Huskies to one of their most successful seasons to that point as the UConn ball club broke into the national rankings for the first time since the 1979 season. The Huskies finished that season with a program-record 48 wins. His pitching staff finished the year with the 17th best ERA in the nation at 3.91. The Huskies also struck out 397 batters, the second-best tally in program history, falling short of Blood’s 2009 staff, which struck out a school record 455 batters.
In his six overall seasons with UConn, Blood had 14 different pitchers drafted in the Major League Baseball draft, including five from the 2011 squad.
A pitcher himself, Blood was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and excelled in the minor leagues before retiring to pursue coaching on the collegiate level. Upon his retirement, Blood had accumulated a 3.97 ERA in 82 games as a minor league player with a 7-4 record. He helped to lead the Inland Empire 66ers to the California League Class A title in 2003, posting a 5-2 record with two saves and a 3.07 ERA with 77 strikeouts and just 27 walks in 58.2 innings out of the bullpen.
Blood played three years for Franklin Pierce before being drafted. He ranks among career leaders at the college with 235 strikeouts (second), 12 wins (fourth) and a 4.62 ERA (seventh) in 204.2 innings (fourth) over 38 appearances (third) with 12 complete games (fourth). In 2001, he struck out a program-record 20 New Hampshire College batters, which still ranks fifth in NCAA Division II single-game history.