Following a national search to find the fourth head coach in program history, the Limestone University Athletics Department did not have to look very far as Brett Harker, the former Furman University head coach and Upstate native, has been named Limestone’s head baseball coach.
A fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft, Harker spent four years as the head coach of the NCAA Division I Paladins before the program was cut following the 2020 season. During the 2021 campaign, he volunteered as the pitching coach at his alma mater, Hillcrest High School.
“Coach Harker caught our attention very early in the interview process as someone with tremendous character,” said Mike Cerino, Limestone’s Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics. “He stood out in a very talented candidate pool with a solid reputation and a proven history of leading and developing young men on and off the diamond. We are so excited that Coach Harker will be leading our baseball program.”
During his lone season volunteering with Hillcrest High School, he helped guide the Rams to their first-ever state championship during the 2021 campaign. Prior to last season’s championship run, Harker coached for six seasons at Furman, including the last four as head coach, before the program was cut after COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season. During his four years as skipper, he posted a 91-96 record.
Furman, which posted wins over Big Ten powers Michigan State and Ohio State and a pair of victories over in-state powerhouse South Carolina during Harker’s tenure, enjoyed its best season under his leadership in 2017. The Paladins tied a program-record with 33 wins that year and would finish third in the Southern Conference standings with a 14-10 mark. Furman also advanced to the SoCon Championship Game.
“My family and I are thrilled to start this new chapter of our lives,” said Harker. “Coaching is my passion and getting to remain in the Upstate of South Carolina and invest in Limestone is an answer to our prayers.”
The Paladins finished 24-28 in his second season, which included wins over USC and Michigan State, before going 26-31 in 2019. Furman posted wins over Ohio State, Kansas, and South Carolina during the 2019 campaign and was sitting at 8-9 early on in 2020 when the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Prior to being elevated to head coach in July 2016, Harker served two seasons as the pitching coach with the Paladins. During his time working with the pitching staff, he mentored Will Gaddis, the 2016 SoCon Pitcher of the Year and the highest Furman player ever taken in the Major League Baseball Draft. Gaddis was taken in the third round by the Colorado Rockies after posing a 9-3 record with a 1.89 ERA in 2017.
Harker joins the Saints with some experience in the South Atlantic Conference, spending a year as the pitching coach for Newberry College in 2014. In addition to his time with the Wolves, he also served as the pitching coach at North Greenville University in 2013. He began his coaching career at Greenville High School in 2011 and coached a travel team with the West End Baseball Academy for three years.
He was an All-America standout at the College of Charleston, helping to lead the Cougars to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2004 and 2005. In 78 games pitched during his three-year tenure, Harker posted a 14-6 career record with a 4.08 ERA and a program-record 29 saves. He set the CofC single season saves record with 15 as a junior as was named the 2005 SoCon Pitcher of the Year.
Harker spent four seasons with the Phillies organization after being taken in the fifth round of the 2005 MLB Draft, advancing to Double A before he was picked up by the Florida Marlins in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft. He was promoted to Triple A in the Marlins organization in 2009 before he wrapped up his career with the Northern League’s Schaumburg Flyers and the American Association’s Lincoln Saltdogs in 2010.
“Thank you to Limestone President Dr. Darrell Parker and Coach Cerino for this opportunity, and I cannot wait to see what we can accomplish together,” Harker concluded. “A special thank you to all of our family, friends, and the Greenville community for praying and for encouraging our family through this search. We always felt like there was a specific place we were supposed to be, and I know we found it at Limestone University.”
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING...
“I am thrilled for Brett, his wonderful wife and children, and for Limestone in hiring a terrific leader of young men. I watched Brett develop players and pitching staffs into competitive, knowledgeable performers and his Furman clubs always presented a challenge with dynamic arms and well-coached players. One of his former players, John-Michael Bertrand, joined us at Notre Dame and quickly became one of the most consistent in the country and was an All-ACC selection. JM’s work ethic and his understanding of his skills speaks volumes to Brett’s influence. In terms of true leadership and mentorship, there is no finer example of character and value than Brett Harker. Limestone is extremely fortunate to have Brett guiding the program as the players will be greatly impacted under his leadership." -- Link Jarrett, Notre Dame Head Baseball Coach – ACC Coach of the Year
“Over the past 18 months, very few people, if any, could have handled what happened with the Furman program with the class and professionalism as Brett did. He has been steadfast in his belief that the right opportunity would come his way, and it feels like he has a perfect match in Limestone. He will build strong relationships with the players and alumni because he is impossible not to like and respect. His reputation for cultivating relationships is second to none and everyone at Limestone is about to understand why. We are extremely happy for Brett, Tiffany, Emma, and Hudson as a fellow coach, but even more so as a friend and a neighbor. He is back where he belongs – in college baseball leading and mentoring young men. Limestone is lucky to have the Harker family." -- Todd Interdonato, Wofford Head Baseball Coach
"Limestone University has made a home run hire in Brett Harker. He is the most complete coach I have ever worked with, and he will deliver an amazing student-athlete experience to the young men on the team. He will develop them as athletes, students, and men of character while winning championships.” -- Mike Buddie, Army West Point Director of Athletics
“Brett Harker is everything that is good about college baseball. As a player, he was a fiery competitor that had an unmatched work ethic. He always led by example and energized his teammates with encouragement. He has a contagious personality that brings out the best in everyone. As a coach, Brett has continued to lead with positive energy, baseball knowledge, and strong values. He has an excellent track record for developing the complete student-athlete.” -- Scott Foxhall, Mississippi State Pitching Coach – 2021 NCAA Division I National Champions