Jay Sullenger completed his 11th season with the Dukes in 2011. After beginning as a volunteer assistant with the Dukes in 2001, the 2011 season was be his fourth as associate head coach. Prior to the 2011 campaign, CAA coaches voted Sullenger as the assistant most ready for a head coaching job among league schools.
A Shenandoah Valley native, Sullenger stepped off the college playing field and right into the college coaching ranks. He completed his college playing career in the spring of 2000 at Liberty University, helping lead the Flames to the Big South title and to a berth in the NCAA Regional Tournament in Columbia, S.C. In all, he played in three NCAA postseason tournaments throughout his college career.
In his second season as a full-time assistant, Sullenger made two major changes in his coaching and administrative responsibilities with the Dukes. He now serves as the Dukes' recruiting coordinator and, on game day, can be found in the third-base coach's box. He continues to work with the infield defense and base running. His promotion to associate head coach came with additional responsibilities of scheduling and budgeting for the program.
"Jay's roles have greatly expanded during his 10 seasons at JMU," McFarland said of Sullenger. "He truly is an associate head coach in that he runs the offense, works with the defense, coordinates our recruiting efforts, and does a lot of other behind-the-scenes work. He's a big reason why we've had three straight highly-ranked recruiting classes. It's like having a second head coach on our staff. He's doing a great job and has had a big impact in regards to the improvements in our program."
As the recruiting coordinator for the Dukes, Sullenger brought on board three consecutive recruiting classes that were each ranked among the best in the nation by Collegiate Baseball newspaper from 2007 to 2009. The program made it four times in five years in the rankings in 2011. JMU was the only CAA school to be ranked each of the three seasons and the four total honors equals that by the rest of the CAA combined over the five-year period. The first two groups (signed for the 2007 and 2008 seasons) filled much of the roster that led the Dukes to their first CAA championship in 2008 while the last three contributed to the 2011 league title.
The Dukes have boasted one of the top offensive and defensive units in the CAA with Sullenger on board. The offensive side reached its pinnacle in 2011 as JMU was recognized by the NCAA as the national statistical champion for slugging percentage (.517) and scoring (8.9 runs per game). The Dukes also led the nation in sacrifice flies (47) while ranking fourth in batting average (.319), sixth in hits (685), 20th in doubles (130), sixth in triples (27), third in home runs (80), second in stolen bases (155), 10th in walks (289), 19th in hit batters (85) and 20th for overall winning percentage (.689).
En route to a CAA championship and NCAA regional runner up finish, the Dukes (42-19, 21-9 first place CAA) established school season records for games (61), at bats (2,145), plate appearances (2,608), runs (541), RBIs (486), triples (27), hit batters (85), sacrifice flies (47), putouts (1,651) and defensive chances (2,364).
JMU also set single-game records for runs (37), hits (28), RBIs (35) and extra-base hits (18) in its season-opening 37-7 win over Bucknell. That win stood as the most runs and largest margin of victory for any NCAA Division I game all season. The Dukes went on to pound 23 home runs and score 91 runs in the four-game series, resulting in a signed bat going on display in the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the highest honor for a hitting coach came with junior Jake Lowery being named National Hitter of the Year by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Lowery led the nation in runs (80), RBIs (91) and total bases (200). Three members of the starting lineup turned pro at the end of the 2011 season with Lowery, shortstop David Herbek and center fielder Alex Foltz.
That 2011 success followed a 2010 season in which JMU went 30-23 and also won the CAA regular season. Offensively, JMU led the league in nearly every category in conference games, including a .344 batting average. The Dukes ranked top 50 in the nation in scoring, doubles, triples, home runs, slugging percentage, steals, and sacrifice flies.
In 2009, JMU led the CAA and ranked 25th nationally with a .330 team batting average. As a team, JMU went 30-24 overall in 2009 and 12-11 in the CAA. The Dukes also ranked 36th in the NCAA in scoring, 34th in doubles per game, 37th in home runs per game, 29th in slugging percentage, and 14th in steals per game.
Sullenger's first season as associate head coach in 2008 saw the Dukes break through with the program's first CAA championship. JMU went 39-19 overall and finished second in the CAA in the regular season at 20-9. A 4-0 run through the conference tournament gave the Dukes the CAA autobid to the NCAA Tournament, JMU's second appearance in Sullenger's tenure. Under his direction, the Dukes ranked among the top 50 in the nation in batting average, scoring, doubles, home runs, slugging percentage, and walks while setting a school record with a .970 fielding percentage.
In 2006, JMU led the league in batting and on-base percentage while ranking second in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, and fielding percentage. In 2007, the team again ranked in the upper half of the league in batting and fielding, including second in on-base percentage, home runs, walks, and fourth in slugging.
Sullenger was a volunteer assistant for the first three seasons while completing his master's degree in kinesiology, working with the outfielders and coaching first base. He earned his degree and puts his concentration of athletic administration and coaching to practical use as a member of McFarland's staff.
Sullenger played his scholastic baseball at nearby Spotswood High School and was the first baseball scholarship athlete from SHS when he signed to a full grant with eight-time Division II National Champion Florida Southern. At Florida Southern, Sullenger played for two-time NCAA Division II Coach of the Year, the late Chuck Anderson.
Sullenger was invited to the Florida Marlins Camp in 1997 where he met coach and former New York Yankee Johnny Hutton. Sullenger elected to transfer to Liberty University (Lynchburg, Va.) and played there for Hutton in 1998. Coach Dave Pastors, coming from the Cleveland organization, became his coach the following year.
Sullenger was a Second Team All-Big South selection as a senior infielder at Liberty, and he was also an All-Tournament pick. He turned in the best season of his career as a senior, hitting .327 (50-for-153) with 12 doubles, five triples, two home runs and 26 stolen bases.
A member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sullenger also worked a season with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he was involved in facility management, event management and game-day event service.
He and his wife, Erin, live in Harrisonburg. They were married in January of 2001 and have four children, Eli, Hannah, Reagan and Macy Grace. Erin is a school teacher and also earned her degree from Liberty University.