Bob Keller begins his seventh season as South Alabama pitching coach in 2018.
Keller helped the Jags capture the program’s 11th Sun Belt Conference Tournament title and advance to their 27th NCAA Regional after finishing the season 40-21. Right-handed pitchers Randy Bell and Tyler Carr were named to the SBC All-Tournament team, and Bell was also selected to the NCAA Hattiesburg All-Regional team. Bell was selected in the 10th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft by the Seattle Mariners, while right-hander Matt Peacock was selected in the 23rd round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Keller helped USA capture its 16th Sun Belt Conference championship and 26th NCAA Regional appearance in 2016. Right-hander Kevin Hill became the league’s first-ever two-time SBC Pitcher of the Year recipient after earning the award in 2015 and ‘16, and also earned SBC Male Student-Athlete of the Year honors in addition to first-team All-America, first-team all-region and first-team all-SBC accolades. He led the SBC in strikeouts (126) and innings pitched (122.2), and tied for second in wins (8). Hill was selected in the 2016 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
The Jaguar pitching staff led the league in innings pitched (573.1) in 2016, ranked second in ERA (3.77) and wins (42), and finished fourth in strikeouts (418).
In 2015 under Keller’s direction, the South Alabama pitching staff posted the program’s lowest team ERA since 1990 (2.80). The Jaguars led the Sun Belt Conference in ERA (3.22), strikeouts (474), runs allowed (221), earned runs allowed (188) and home runs allowed (22) last year, and ranked second in innings pitched (526), wins (37) and fewest hits allowed (472) en route to the program’s 15th SBC championship. Keller was voted as the Large College Division-Division I Assistant Coach of the Year for 2015 by the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association.
Jaguar right-hander Kevin Hill was named the 2015 SBC Pitcher of the Year, and was a second-team All-America selection by Collegiate Baseball and received third-team All-America honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings. Hill was also voted first-team all-South Central Region by the ABCA/Rawlings, and also received first-team all-SBC honors. Right-hander Ben Taylor also earned first-team all-SBC recognition, and was selected in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox.
Keller helped lead South Alabama to its 14th Sun Belt Conference championship and 25th NCAA Regional appearance by helping the USA pitching staff post its lowest team ERA (4.19) since 2001 in his second season with the program in 2013. The Jags recorded 511 strikeouts – the most by a USA staff since the 2005 staff struck out 521 batters.
Under Keller, Kyle Bartsch became South Alabama’s all-time saves leader and tied the single-season record with 12. Both Bartsch and right-hander Matt Bell were named second-team all-Sun Belt Conference in 2013. That season, the South Alabama pitching staff led the Sun Belt in saves (22), and ranked second in ERA (4.19), innings pitched (560.1) and strikeouts (511). Bartsch and right-handed reliever Dylan Stamey were both selected in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, becoming the first Jaguar pitchers to be drafted under Keller.
In his first season with the program in 2012, Keller helped right-hander Jarron Cito earn second-team all-Sun Belt Conference honors, marking the first time a Jaguar pitcher has been named all-conference since P.J. Walters in 2006. The USA pitching staff increased its strikeout total by 70 (435) in 2012 – the highest team total since 2008 (427). South Alabama’s 13 team saves were the most by a Jaguar staff since 2003 (15).
In 2014, Keller helped southpaw Locke St. John reach the professional ranks when he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Keller enters his 23rd year of Division I coaching this season, and has participated in eight NCAA Regional Tournaments and two Super Regionals. He has worked with 35 pitchers who have moved on to professional baseball.
Prior to arriving at South Alabama, Keller served as pitching coach at Dallas Baptist where he helped lead the Patriots to a 42-20 record and NCAA Super Regional in 2011. DBU won the Fort Worth Regional in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2011, advancing to a Super Regional against California in Santa Clara, Calif.
Prior to joining the DBU staff, Keller spent six seasons as the pitching coach at Michigan. In his time at Michigan, Keller had 18 pitchers earn all-Big Ten honors, and also had 16 pitchers go on to professional baseball – 10 of which were selected in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Keller saw four of those pitchers drafted in 2005, including Clayton Richard of the San Diego Padres, and three inside the first 10 rounds of the 2010 draft in his final year at Michigan.
Keller’s pitching staff finished in the top two of the Big Ten in overall team ERA three of his last four seasons. His staff led the Big Ten in wins and saves, and was second in strikeouts and third in overall team ERA (5.22) in 2010. In 2009, the Wolverines finished first with a 4.84 team ERA, while in 2008, his staff helped guide the Wolverines to the most wins in Big Ten history with a team ERA of 4.19. In 2006, All-Americans Chris Fetter, drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2009, and Zach Putnam, drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2008 and now with the Colorado Rockies, led Keller’s staff to a 2.91 ERA in the Big Ten. In 2010, Keller had three Michigan pitchers drafted in the first ten rounds.
Before his stint at Michigan, Keller spent three seasons as the pitching coach at Birmingham-Southern, under current University of Alabama Birmingham head coach, Brian Shoop. Under Keller’s direction, the Panther pitching staff posted the best team ERA in the Big South Conference, and he worked with six pitchers taken in the draft. Keller’s staff played an instrumental role in the Panther’s 2004 season, in which they posted an impressive 47-18 record, won the Big South regular season title, and ranked 29th in the NCAA with a 3.82 ERA.
From 1995-2001, Keller served as an assistant coach at Georgia State, spending three seasons as the recruiting coordinator under head coach Mike Hurst.
Keller had an outstanding career as both a pitcher and outfielder at Biola University. A two-time NCCAA All-American, Keller held school records for RBI and doubles, and ranked second in hits and home runs upon graduation in 1992. In his first career start as a freshman, Keller threw a complete game victory against Texas Tech University. Keller earned his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education while at Biola, and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology while at Georgia State. He and his wife, Jeannie, have two sons, Charles and Brady.
Chris Prothro enters his third season as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at South Alabama in 2018.
In 2017, Prothro helped USA to its 11th Sun Belt Conference Tournament title and advanced to its 27th NCAA Regional after finishing the season 40-21. USA went 22-8 in Sun Belt play before winning three straight games at the SBC Tournament in Statesboro, Ga., to advance to the NCAA Hattiesburg (Miss.) Regional. South Alabama finished the season ranked 26th in the final Collegiate Baseball poll. It marked the second straight year the Jags have won 40 or more games, and the 21st time the program has won 40-plus contests.
USA broke the program record for walks (373) in a season in 2017, which ranked second nationally. The Jags ranked sixth nationally in runs scored (488) and on-base percentage (.415), seventh in runs per game (8.0), 11th in fielding percentage (.980), 14th in sacrifice flies (32) and home runs (78), and 15th in slugging percentage (.480). Jared Barnes and Travis Swaggerty earned All-America honors in 2017, and were also all-SBC selections along with Dylan Hardy, Drew LaBounty and Wells Davis. Barnes was selected in the eighth round of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft by the Miami Marlins.
In his first season with the Jaguars in 2016, USA captured its 16th Sun Belt Conference championship and advanced to a NCAA Regional for the 26th time in program history.
Center fielder Cole Billingsley earned his second consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2016, in addition to first-team all-SBC and second-team all-region honors after leading the SBC and finishing 13th nationally in stolen bases (31) for the second straight season. Billingsley also led the conference in sacrifice flies (8), which ranked eighth nationally. Outfielder Travis Swaggerty was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball, and Drew LaBounty earned first-team all-SBC honors at shortstop. The USA offense led the SBC in runs scored (382), RBI (337), walks (330), sacrifice flies (32), stolen bases (107), total plate appearances (2587) and at-bats (2120). USA finished seventh in the nation in walks (330), eighth in stolen bases (107) and 16th in stolen bases per game (1.67). The Jaguar defense broke the program’s single-season fielding percentage record (.979), which led the SBC and ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Prothro spent eight seasons at Nicholls State, where he served as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for his final four years, prior to joining the USA staff. During his eight seasons at NSU, Prothro helped produce six all-Southland Conference honorees and nine Major League Baseball draft picks and signees including four from the 2015 squad. The NSU pitching staff, which Prothro directed in 2015, led the Southland Conference in ERA (2.47), opposing batting average (.242), saves (17), hits allowed (425), runs allowed (181), earned runs allowed (131), and allowed the fewest home runs (13) in the league as well.
Under Prothro’s guidance, right-hander Justin Sinbaldi and left-hander Stuart Holmes were named first-team all-region by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2015. Sinbaldi was a Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger third-team All-American, and also named to the all-Louisiana Sports Writers Association first team while Holmes earned second-team honors.
Sinbaldi was named the Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year and was a first-team all-conference selection after leading the league with a 1.40 ERA. Holmes led the league and set a school record with 15 saves, and was named the Southland Conference Relief Pitcher of the Year and a third-team ABCA All-American before being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Right-hander Ryan Deemes was also selected by the Houston Astros in this year’s MLB Draft, and received all-Southland Conference honorable mention while southpaw Grant Borne was taken by the Washington Nationals in the seventh round of this year’s draft.
Prior to his time at NSU, Prothro served as assistant coach at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) where he also held the title of hitting instructor while working with catchers and outfielders in addition to assisting with recruiting. In two years at NIACC, Prothro coached three National Junior College Athletic Association All-Americans along with back-to-back regional player-of-the-year honorees and 16 all-region performers.
Prothro lettered for two seasons at Arkansas State (2004-05) as a catcher, and earned his bachelor’s degree in history from ASU in 2005. He also served as a graduate assistant at ASU prior to receiving his degree. He began his collegiate playing career at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., where he helped the Demons capture the 2002 Southland Conference championship before transferring to Crowder College for his sophomore season where he earned his associate’s degree.
Alan Luckie enters his 12th season as an assistant coach at South Alabama in 2018. He works with USA infielders and baserunners, and also assists with Jaguar hitters. Additionally, Luckie works closely with the USA Dugout Club.
Luckie’s infield defenses have put up impressive numbers through the years. The Jag defense has fielded at least .966 in each of his 12 seasons, and the 2017 mark of .980 broke a single-season record at USA and ranked 11th nationally. The Jags have ranked in the top 10 in fielding percentage the last three seasons, and broke the program’s single-season record in fielding percentage in each of those seasons.
The Jaguars’ 2008 mark of .969 was fourth-best in school history at the time. The Jaguar defense also finished third in the nation by turning 68 double plays during the 2008 regular season.
In 2010, Luckie helped Jaguar second baseman Zach Grichor become the program’s first Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner. Grichor committed just two errors in 311 chances to earn the honor. In 2011, Luckie helped freshman Logan Kirkland make a midseason switch from second base to shortstop, which resulted in Kirkland being named second-team Freshman All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Baseball America.
In 2012, two Jaguar hitters – Whitt Dorsey (1st team) and Jordan Patterson (2nd team) – earned all-Sun Belt Conference honors. South Alabama led the SBC in batting average (.306), slugging percentage (.452), on-base percentage (.389), runs scored (205), RBI (184), total bases (474), and tied for most hits (321) in league contests in 2012.
He helped guide the Jaguars to their 14th Sun Belt Conference championship and 25th NCAA Regional appearance in 2013. Luckie helped 2013 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Jordan Patterson – who was a fourth-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 MLB Draft – make the transition from outfield to first base. Patterson went on to earn All-American honorable mention as well as first-team all-Sun Belt Conference and second-team American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) all-South/Central Region honors. Robby Campbell was named first-team all-SBC at second base in that same season. Dustin Dalken was named first-team all-SBC as designated hitter after batting .330 with 11 doubles, a triple, a team-leading eight home runs, 43 RBI and 29 runs scored in 54 games.
In 2014, Cole Gleason earned second-team all-SBC honors after leading the team in 10 offensive categories. Gleason hit .381 with seven doubles, three homers, 29 RBI and 15 runs scored while posting a .976 OPS including a .454 on-base percentage in 28 Sun Belt contests.
In 2015, center fielder Cole Billingsley led the Sun Belt Conference with 30 stolen bases and received an American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Division I Gold Glove Award. Billingsley also earned first-team all-SBC honors, and second-team all-South Central Region accolades from the ABCA/Rawlings.
In 2016, Billingsley earned first-team all-SBC honors after leading the league in sacrifice flies (8), which ranked eighth nationally, and stolen bases (31), which ranked 13th nationally, for the second straight year, and was also named second-team all-region in addition to winning his second consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award as a center fielder. He was drafted in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. Shortstop Drew LaBounty also earned first-team all-SBC honors after leading the league and finishing sixth nationally in walks (59), and ranking second in on-base percentage, sacrifice flies and total plate appearances. The Jaguars won the program’s 16th SBC title in ‘16, and made the program’s 26th NCAA Regional appearance in which they advanced to the Regional final against Florida State.
USA finished seventh in the nation in walks (330), eighth in stolen bases (107) and 16th in stolen bases per game (1.67). The Jags finished tops in the league in walks, stolen bases, sacrifice flies (32) and stolen bases per game (1.67) in 2016.
In 2017, South Alabama finished the season ranked 26th in the final Collegiate Baseball poll after capturing the SBC Tournament title and advancing to the NCAA Hattiesburg (Miss.) Regional. It marked the second straight year the Jags have won 40 or more games, and the 21st time the program has won 40-plus contests. USA broke the program record for walks (373) in a season, which ranked second nationally. The Jags ranked sixth nationally in runs scored (488) and on-base percentage (.415), seventh in runs per game (8.0), 11th in fielding percentage (.980), 14th in sacrifice flies (32) and home runs (78), and 15th in slugging percentage (.480). Jared Barnes and Travis Swaggerty earned All-America honors in 2017, and were also all-SBC selections along with Dylan Hardy, Drew LaBounty and Wells Davis. Swaggerty and Barnes were also each honored with ABCA all-region accolades. Barnes was selected in the eighth round of the MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins.
Luckie came to USA at the start of the 2007 season after spending five seasons working with Stu Fuller at Fairhope High School. The Pirates either captured or tied for the regional championship crown in each of those five seasons. Those teams compiled a combined record of 127-65.
A graduate of Fairhope High School in 1980, Luckie went on to play two seasons at Faulkner State Community College before moving on to Spring Hill College, where he played for coach Steve Kittrell in 1983 and was an all-conference performer there in 1984. He graduated from Spring Hill in 1984.
Using opportunities from life-long friend and former Miami Marlins Manager and General Manager, Dan Jennings, Luckie has garnered knowledge from numerous professional coaches including Jack McKeon, Jim Presley, “Bone” Hill, Bo Porter, Rich Donnelly and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
A highly successful businessman involved heavily in the South Alabama community, Luckie brings a vast amount of experience both on and off the field to the Jaguar family.
He resides in Point Clear, Ala., with his wife Kerry. They have two married daughters, Jenna Luckie Rogers (Landon) and Kayla Luckie Buchanan (Chris) and one grandson, Pierce Rogers.