By Marty Gordon
Christiansburg High School junior quarterback MJ Hunter has decided to continue his athletic career as a member of the Radford University baseball team. Hunter announced his decision this past weekend.
“I chose RU because I really enjoy the coaching staff there, and I like the environment. My goals in baseball are to learn something new from the coaching staff, and to be successful,” Hunter said.
In addition to being the football team’s starting quarterback, Hunter is a third baseman for the Blue Demons’ baseball team and plays basketball for the Demons. He expects to play infield for the Highlanders.
This past year, he was named to the River Ridge District and Region 3D all-star teams. He hopes to major in athletic training at RU.
Hunter will be the second CHS player to take the field for the Highlanders as pitcher Alex Perkins is currently on the team’s roster.
Two months ago, Karl Kuhn was named Radford University’s sixth head baseball coach as announced by RU’s Director of Athletics Robert Lineburg Thursday afternoon. Kuhn spent the past 16 seasons as the pitching coach at the University of Virginia where the pitching staff has met unparalleled success.
“We are thrilled to announce that Karl Kuhn is the sixth head coach in Highlander baseball history,” Lineburg stated. “Karl has a stellar background as an assistant coach at the University of Virginia working with Brian O’Connor, one of college baseball’s greatest head coaches. Karl is widely regarded as one of the best pitching coaches in college baseball, and this will serve him well as the head coach at Radford. We are extremely confident that Karl will take Radford baseball to new heights in the coming years.”
Kuhn had one of the nation’s top pitching staff year in and year out throughout his tenure as pitching coach at Virginia, which began in 2004. In 16 seasons at Virginia, Kuhn’s pitching staff won 671 games, an average of more than 41 victories per season. His staff has ranked among the top 20 teams nationally in ERA nine of the last 15 years, including a No. 1 ranking in 2011 and a No. 2 standing in 2014 when UVA posted the lowest ERA at the school in 40 years.
The Cavaliers also have racked up four top-three national ERA rankings (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009) during Kuhn’s tenure. His 2018 staff ranked No. 2 in the country in strikeouts per nine innings (10.5).
“On behalf of the Radford family, I am honored to welcome Coach Kuhn and his family as Highlanders,” Radford University President Dr. Brian O. Hemphill said. “From the moment I met Coach Kuhn, it was clear to me that he embodies the true spirit of a Highlander. Throughout his personal life and his professional career, he has experienced great success by overcoming many obstacles and demonstrating the importance of hard work, grit and perseverance.
“I am confident that Coach Kuhn will take the Radford University Baseball program to unprecedented levels by serving as an outstanding example to the young men he will develop and lead in the months and years to come. Today is a great day to be a Highlander,” Hemphill said.
Named the 2014 Collegiate Baseball National Pitching Coach of the Year, Kuhn helped Virginia advance to its first College World Series in 2009, setting off a remarkable stretch as UVA has recorded 437 wins in the last 10 years including a 2015 NCAA national championship. In this time period, UVA has made three trips to the College World Series, won five NCAA Regional championships, one ACC tournament title and one ACC Coastal Division crown. UVA has racked up four 50-win seasons since 2010 and also has reached the top of the national polls at some point in four of those seasons.
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to lead the Radford Baseball program.” Kuhn stated. “It’s such an incredible privilege and an honor. The mark of a good coach is to make a player a better player. The mark of a good leader is to make a man a better man. I am committed to doing both.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun, but it won’t be easy,” the new head coach said. “Committing to something larger than yourself is where the true rewards lie. We will keep that in the forefront
of our mission every day. We’ll build this program on things like accountability, responsibility and selflessness with an emphasis on honesty, trust and mutual respect. I can’t wait to meet our team, get on the field with them and share my vision for Radford Baseball with our alumni, our fans and, most importantly, with our recruits.”
In 2010, Kuhn was the recipient of Collegiate Baseball’s Tom House Teaching Professional of the Year Award. The award recognizes excellence in teaching pitchers and acknowledges years of continued education and study of the latest pitching techniques as identified by scientific fact and biomechanical research.
During Kuhn’s tenure in Charlottesville, UVA produced 96 shutouts, including an ACC-record 16 in 2011. The Cavaliers also boasted a league-high 29 ACC Pitchers of the Week during the last 16 years.
Five of Kuhn’s UVA proteges went on to reach the major league level. Michael Schwimer (Philadelphia) and Mike Ballard (Baltimore) each reached the big leagues in 2011. Sean Doolittle made his MLB debut in 2012 with the Oakland Athletics and was named to the MLB All-Star game twice (2014 and 2018). Kyle Crockett ripped through the Cleveland Indians farm system in less than a year, debuting with the Indians in May 2014 and becoming the first player from the 2013 draft class to reach the big leagues. Tyler Wilson made his MLB debut with the Baltimore Orioles in May 2015.
Forty-two of Kuhn’s Virginia pitchers were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, including 25 in the top 10 rounds. Four Cavaliers were picked in the first round of the draft: Danny Hultzen, the second overall pick in 2011; Nick Howard, the 19th selection in 2014; Nathan Kirby, the 40th pick in 2015, and Daniel Lynch, the 34th selection in 2018.
Kuhn coached 15 All-Americans and 28 All-ACC honorees in his tenure at Virginia. A three- time First-Team All-American, Hultzen was Virginia’s first-ever ACC Freshman of the Year in 2009. Then in 2010 and 2011, he became the first-ever two-time ACC Pitcher of the Year in before being selected second overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. In addition, Doolittle (2005-2006), Jacob Thompson (2007) and Branden Kline (2011) each earned All-American honors and played for the U.S. Collegiate National Team.
Prior to becoming the first assistant coach to be hired at Virginia under current head coach Brian O’Connor, Kuhn served as the associate head coach and pitching coach at Little Rock for seven years (1997-2003). At Little Rock, Kuhn managed all aspects of the Trojans’ pitching staff and was also the recruiting coordinator for the program. He had five-consecutive recruiting classes ranked nationally by Collegiate Baseball during his tenure with the Trojans.