Johnny Poss to lead new college baseball program

bburden@capgaznews.com

After guiding St. Mary's to an unprecedented level of success on the baseball diamond, Johnny Poss has stepped up to the plate to face an even more daunting and exciting challenge.

Poss was officially announced Tuesday afternoon as the first head baseball coach at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The school, located about two hours from the Annapolis area, and midway between Hagerstown and Carlisle, Pennsylvania, only recently became co-ed. Baseball represents the fifth varsity men's sport, satisfying NCAA requirements for full membership for men. The Phoenix reside in the southern division of the North Eastern Athletic Conference.

"I saw an opportunity to move to the next level, and saw where the chips fell," Poss said. "This is extremely appealing to me for the challenge of it. There are currently zero baseball players in the program."

Poss has experience building programs. He left an associate coaching position at his alma mater, DC-area powerhouse DeMatha, to take over St. Mary's before the 2012 season. He subsequently led the Saints, in five-plus seasons, to a 123-28 overall record, including back-to-back MIAA B Conference championships, as well as a successful competitive transition to the A conference ahead of the 2016 season. Numerous Saints have moved on to the collegiate level.

"After an extensive national search, I am elated that John Poss rose to the top of the list of candidates and will lead our new baseball program here at Wilson College," said Wilson College Director of Athletics Lori Frey in a press release. "The search committee was impressed with his plan to build the baseball program from the ground up and his commitment to developing outstanding student-athletes."

Poss played collegiality at UMBC and Winthrop before, in his words, a "short-lived" professional career. Soon after, he embarked on a coaching career that has now prepared him for this next opportunity.

"I fielded phone calls for potential offers as an associate coach in high school and in college, and I wasn't ruling out anything," Poss said. "This jumped to the top of my list."

Wilson College will not compete at the varsity level until the 2018-19 school year, giving Poss a full year to, in his words, "pound the pavement and recruit, recruit, recruit."

Poss will have several carats to dangle to potential recruits. With no existing program, and a current enrollment of around just 1,000, he can offer rising seniors, potential transfers, and junior college prospects the opportunity to compete for playing time right away. On Wednesday afternoon, he was heading over to a prospect event at the University of Maryland.

"I will have a lot of high school games to go to and a lot of winter stuff," Poss said. "I am going to recruit at every event I can. Being from the Anne Arundel County area has led to a lot of knowledgeable baseball acquaintances, and this area alone has so many potential prospects that are talented and play the right way. I don't feel like anyone will outwork me in that area."

The Phoenix will initially play at Henninger Field, an historic ballpark located in Chambersburg, and home to the amateur Chambersburg Maroons from 1895-2010. The borough and the university have already agreed to a contract that will allow for upgrades and refurbishment of the facilities where needed.

Poss, who works for an accounting firm with five offices in the region, is considering relocating closer to the Chambersburg area, at least to Hagerstown, and get to work immediately on his 2019 squad.

"I am excited about this opportunity," he said. "You are not taking over someone else's slate; this is your program."

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