In 17 seasons as head coach of the USC Aiken baseball program, Kenny Thomas has re-established the Pacers as a force in the Peach Belt Conference and a perennial top-25 team in NCAA Division II.
During the 2010 season, Thomas became the winningest coach in USC Aiken baseball history. Thomas heads into the 2017 campaign with 619 wins in his time as the head Pacer skipper.
Thomas also surpassed the 1,000-win plateau as a college head coach in USC Aiken’s win over Flagler on March 2, 2013. Thomas earned his 500th victory guiding the Pacers in a three-game road sweep over then 10th-ranked Lander.
Thomas is presently 1,139-562 in 29 seasons as a head coach. He is currently in the top-40 among active NCAA Division II coaches for wins. His .643 winning percentage as the Pacer skipper places him in the top-30 among active NCAA Division II head coaches.
Thomas led the Pacers to the NCAA Southeast Region Championship game and a 40-18 mark in 2016. He coached first-team All-American Zach Moon. His squad established a school and PBC record for home runs in an inning (four). The team accounted for 201 extra-base hits. Several student-athletes were among the league leaders in statistical categories.
In 2015, Thomas led the team to a berth in the PBC Tournament semifinals as his team battled an abundance of injuries throughout the year. Thomas’ squad tied six school records and Forrest Koumas set the school record for most strikeouts in a game with 18 against Georgia Southwestern. He coached second-team all-conference selection Sean Miller and several of his student-athletes were near the top of the PBC statistical rankings at the end of the year.
During the 2014 campaign, Thomas' team once again was ranked for the majority of the season en route to a 36-17 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. His team posted wins over two top-five programs and also broke four school records. He coached first-team all-conference selection Derek Beasley and had several players near the top of the national statistical rankings at the conclusion of the season.
The 2013 season saw a number of milestones for Thomas and the Pacers as he led the team to a 42-13 overall record. The Pacers won the Peach Belt Conference regular season championship. Thomas was selected the Peach Belt Conference and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Southeast Region Coach of the Year for the 2013 season. The PBC Coach of the Year honor is the second of Thomas’ career (also 2009).
The Pacers were nationally ranked in every poll during the year, reaching as high as No. 1 nationally. The Pacers were ranked in the Top-30 in 32 straight national polls dating back to 2012. USC Aiken also was chosen as the second seed in the Southeast Region of the 2013 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship.
Thomas has led the Pacers to eight NCAA Tournament appearances (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2016) in the last 11 seasons.
The 2012 season saw USC Aiken finish at 37-18 while finishing the year ranked 16th nationally after being ranked as high as third during the season. The 2012 season marked the 11th time in the past 12 years that the Pacers have won at least 30 games.
The Pacers encountered some tough luck in being left out of the Southeast Regional after being dropped by Lander one game from the PBC Tournament Championship. The Pacers went 27-6 at home on the year and saw many players receive individual accolades as they enjoyed another successful year.
The 2011 USC Aiken baseball team was ranked as high as 16th nationally. USC Aiken concluded its year with a record of 29-21. The 2010 Pacer baseball team was ranked as high as sixth nationally at one point during the regular season.
The Pacers finished the year with a record of 32-19.
USC Aiken's 2009 baseball team ended the season tied for 10th in the final Collegiate Baseball NCAA Division II Top 30 poll. The final ranking of 10th was the highest for the Pacers under Thomas, who was chosen as PBC Conference Coach of the Year for his mentoring of the 2009 Pacers. USC Aiken ended the 2008 season ranked 11th, while they concluded the 2005 season 12th. The Pacers reached as high as No. 2 nationally in 2009 en route to their second ever Peach Belt Conference regular season championship. The Pacers' prowess during the regular season helped USC Aiken earn top honors in the Southeast Region, enabling the program to host its second ever NCAA Division II Tournament regional.
The Pacers advanced to the regional final for the second consecutive season before bowing out to NCAA Division II Baseball Championship semifinalist and Conference Carolinas Tournament champion Belmont Abbey in the first game of the championship round.
USC Aiken (42-19) concluded its season having been a part of its fifth consecutive NCAA Division II Baseball regional.
In 2008, Thomas and his staff guided the Pacers to a school-record 47 wins and a second-place finish in the NCAA South Atlantic Regional. USCA went 47-17 overall and 18-9 in the Peach Belt Conference, finishing just one win behind PBC champion Columbus State.
It was April 23, 2006 when USC Aiken knocked off sixth-ranked Francis Marion 5-2 in Aiken to notch Thomas' 200th victory at the helm of the Pacers. The Pacers went 45-19 that season, at the time the most wins in Thomas' USCA tenure.
In 2005, Thomas' Pacers went 40-19 including a 16-14 mark in PBC play to advance to the program's first NCAA South Atlantic Regional in a dozen years.
On February 12, 2002, USC Aiken knocked off Limestone College 14-8 to hand Thomas his 100th victory at USC Aiken while his 50th win came on April 4, 2001 in a dramatic 8-6 victory over Newberry in 10 innings.
In 2004, the Pacers opened the 1,000-seat Roberto Hernandez Stadium of which Thomas and Athletic Director Randy Warrick were instrumental in securing a one million dollar donation from the 16-year Major League Baseball veteran.
Since the stadium's opening, USCA is 222-79 at the state-of-the-art ballpark for a .738 winning percentage. In addition, USC Aiken hosted the 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014 Peach Belt Conference Baseball Tournaments.
In addition to being chosen as the PBC Coach of the Year in 2009, Thomas was named Coach of the Year in 1989, 1993-96, and 1998 by his fellow coaches and was selected in 1995 and 1999 as the National Junior College Athletic Association Eastern District Coach of the Year.
Thomas' success has not gone unnoticed by the community. Over the past seven seasons, the Pacers have finished in the top 15 in Division II in home attendance. As part of Thomas' annual Pack-the-Park day promotion a school record 1,806 fans attended Roberto Hernandez Stadium on April 15, 2012 to watch USC Aiken take on the UNC Pembroke Braves.
Thomas has also instilled in his team the confidence needed to win the big games as the Pacers have won 102 games played against ranked opponents in the past 12 seasons, including 53 games in the last five seasons. The Pacers posted 17 wins over ranked opponents in 2009.
As a player, Thomas earned NAIA All-American honors his senior year as a catcher while at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn.
Following his graduation in 1978, Thomas began coaching a Stan Musial summer league team. In nine summers, he led his team to a national championship (1985), a runner-up finish (1986) and a third place finish (1984).
Thomas also became a local scout for the New York Yankees (1980-81), Cincinnati Reds (1981-82), and St. Louis Cardinals (1982-88).
After becoming head coach at Volunteer State, Thomas remained with the Cardinals organization in a part time capacity until 1995.
Thomas has coached 64 players who have gone on to be drafted in professional baseball drafts (two more signed as free agents after the draft), 102 All-Conference players, six conference Players of the Year, 17 All-Americans, one Southeast Region Player of the Year and one National Player of the Year. In the summer of 2012, the San Diego Padres drafted former USC Aiken standout Stephen Carmon in the 10th Round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Also, the 2008 Daktronics Player of the Year and 2008 Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year Chad Jacobsen was drafted in the 18th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Colorado Rockies. In 2016, Nick Jobst was drafted in the 15th round by the Baltimore Orioles while Chaz Pal was selected in the 38th round by the Houston Astros.
Ben Donath is in his second year as assistant coach with the University of South Carolina Aiken baseball team.
Donath helped guide the squad to a .321 batting average and a berth to the NCAA Southeast Region Championship game. The Pacers registered 201 extra-base hits, including 81 round-trippers.
Donath was a two-year standout for the Pacers after transferring from Middle Georgia.
As a junior, he played in 52 games, earning 36 starts while batting .295. He had 10 multi-hit performances that season to go along with seven multi-RBI contests. Donath's four triples led the team and were tied for fourth in the PBC.
As a senior, he played in 47 games, earning 40 starts. Donath led the team with 20 doubles and posted 24 extra-base hits.
Donath earned his degree in exercise and sports science.
Phil Disher enters his second year as an assistant coach with the USC Aiken baseball team.
In his first year, Disher's offense helped carry the team to the NCAA Southeast Region Championship game. The team batted .321 and established a league record by smacking four home runs in a single inning. The squad blasted 81 home runs and had several among the league leaders in round-trippers. His coaching helped Zach Moon earn first-team All-America honors. Senior Chaz Pal was selected in the 38th round of the MLB Draft.
Disher came to USC Aiken after spending three years at Georgetown as the hitting coach. He helped the Hoyas improve from a .255 team batting average in 2013 to a .279 mark in 2015. In his three seasons, Georgetown totaled 306 extra-base hits, including 123 in 2015.
The Hoyas' offense ranked third in the BIG EAST in 2015 in batting average and was second in the league with 23 round-trippers. Four student-athletes established career-high marks in homers in 2015. Disher mentored Georgetown's first-ever BIG EAST Player of the Year, junior catcher Nick Collins, who batted .370 and led the conference with 78 hits, seven homers, 114 total bases and a .540 slugging percentage.
Prior to his tenure at Georgetown, Disher spent two seasons at Wofford, where he worked with the hitters and catchers.
Disher was selected twice in the Major League Baseball Draft, first by the San Francisco Giants in the 45th round in 2007 and then in the 15th round of the 2008 draft by the Houston Astros. During his first year of professional ball, he was tabbed the MVP of the New York-Penn League while with the Tri-City Valley Cats in Troy, N.Y. He finished playing professionally with the Astros' organization when he was forced to retire due to an injury.
Disher graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2007 with a degree in exercise science and a minor in coaching. During his four-year career with the Gamecocks, he was a two-time all-SEC performer and was a third-team All-America honoree by the NCBWA as a senior. Disher was twice named to NCAA all-region squads. He was also selected to a pair of SEC tournament teams and was named the MVP of the 2007 Virginia Regional.
Disher served as the head coach of the Forest City Owls in the Coastal Plains Collegiate Summer League in 2014, leading the Owls to a first-half division championship and he was selected as the head coach of the all-star team.
Former University of South Carolina Aiken hurler Derek Beasley has been added to the staff as the pitching coach.
"What a great feeling it is to have another former player on our staff," Head baseball coach Kenny Thomas said. "Not only a former player, but one of the most dedicated and loyal student-athletes to ever play for us. Derek's knowledge from pitching four years in the PBC and his knowledge from professional ball cannot be matched."
Beasley, a native of Harlem, Ga., was one of the most efficient pitchers in USC Aiken history. A two-time first-team all-conference selection, he is second on the career list with 29 victories. Beasley notched a 29-13 record over four years while tossing 310.1 innings.
He struck out 292 batters, resulting in 8.47 strikeouts per game while boasting a 3.65 ERA. Beasley produced back-to-back nine-win seasons and struck out a career-high 89 batters two different years. His 52 career starts are the most in school history. As a junior, Beasley was an all-Southeast Region team selection by the ABCA, NCBWA and Daktronics.
In 2014, he was selected in the 30th round by the Oakland Athletics with the 912th pick of the MLB Draft.