WINTER HAVEN, FL – Amherst College baseball head coach Bill Thurston became the 12th coach in Division III history to record 800 career wins, as the Lord Jeffs earned a 15-8 victory over Bowdoin College in game two of a doubleheader at Chain of Lakes Stadium in Winter Haven, FL.
As head coach of the Amherst baseball program since 1966, Thurston is the winningest coach in any sport in school history. Currently in his 44th season with the Lord Jeffs, Thurston has posted a career record of 800-460-12 (.634), which includes 35 winning seasons and 21 seasons of at least 20 victories.
Although 11 Division III coaches had recorded 800 wins prior to Thursday, Thurston's milestone is special considering the limited number of games NESCAC schools are allowed to play in a season. Of the 11 coaches ahead of Thurston on the all-time victories list, eight have averaged at least 40 games per season during their tenures, with all 11 averaging at least 36 games. In Thurston's first 43 years at Amherst he averaged only 29.4 games per season, and has never coached more than 37 games in any year.
Due to the conference's limited number of games, it is no surprise that Thurston is the first NESCAC coach to reach 800 wins. In fact, no other NESCAC coach has reached 500 wins or is among the top 50 all-time winningest Division III coaches. Among active Division III coaches, Thurston ranks eighth in total victories.
Amherst has had only one losing season since 1970 and has won at least 19 games in each of the past 14 years. From 1995 to 2008 Thurston's teams posted a record of 299-160-3 (.650), advanced to the NCAA Tournament four times (1997, 1999, 2004, 2005) and won two NESCAC titles (2004, 2005).
Amherst's winningest season during Thurston's tenure came in 1997, when the Jeffs finished with a 26-6 record that included an 8-3 win over top-seeded Brandeis University in day one of the NCAA Regional Championship. No Lord Jeff team advanced further in the NCAA Tournament than did the 1999 squad, which won three postseason games before being eliminated by Brandeis in the NCAA Regional Finals.
No group of seniors won more games than did the Class of 1999, which went 92-36 in its four years under Thurston, while the Class of 1991 boasts the best winning percentage (.771, 91-27) among Thurston's groups of seniors.
Of Thurston's 800 career victories, 90 have come against archrival Williams College. Amherst has posted a 90-34-1 record against the Ephs since 1966, including a dominating stretch of 50-7-1 (.871) from 1977 to 1997.
Amherst's 5-4 victory over Holy Cross in 1966 marked win No. 1 for Thurston. Number 100 came eight years later against Stetson University, and in five-year intervals beginning in 1979 Thurston earned No. 200, 300 and 400, each at Williams' expense. Skidmore College was the victim of Thurston's 500th win in 1995, while Fitchburg State (1999) and Keene State (2004) witnessed wins No. 600 and 700, respectively.
On Thursday, during Thurston's 43rd southern swing (Amherst did not head south in 1966), number 800 came against the Polar Bears in a non-conference matchup between two NESCAC teams. The Lord Jeffs took the lead in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back, pouring on 15 runs along the way. The nightcap win came after Bowdoin had taken the first game in come-from-behind fashion by a 6-5 margin.
Amherst sits at 5-2 on the season, with both losses coming in one-run games.
Thurston and the Lord Jeffs return to action Friday, when they will continue their Spring Break trip against MCLA at 9 a.m. The Jeffs will play one game on Saturday and one on Sunday before returning to Amherst, with the northern schedule set to begin Wednesday, Mar. 25 at Westfield State.
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Division III All-Time Winningest Coaches (by Victories)
*1) 1,783 – Gordie Gillespie (Lewis 1953-76; St. Francis 1977-95;
Ripon 1996-2005; St. Francis 2006-present)
2) 1,438 – Don Schaly (Marietta 1964-2003)
*3) 1,249 – Bill Holowaty (Eastern Connecticut State 1969-present)
4) 1,196 – Jim Mallon (Southwestern 1971-2004)
*5) 1,062 – Don Brandon (Anderson 1972-present)
*6) 905 – George Valesente (Brockport 1973-74; New Paltz State 1975-76;
Maritime 1977-78; Ithaca 1979-present)
*7) 898 – Tom Austin (Methodist 1980-present)
*8) 876 – Tim Pettorini (Wooster 1982-present)
9) 860 – Jeff Albies (William Paterson 1975-2007)
*10) 829 – Bob Babb (John Hopkins 1980-present)
*11) 825 – John Ostrowski (Benedictine 1973-present)
*12) 800 – Bill Thurston (Amherst 1966-present)
Coach Thurston's Milestone Wins
No. 1: Amherst 5, Holy Cross 4 (1966)
No. 100: Amherst 5, Stetson 4 (1974)
No. 200: Amherst 8, Williams 7 (1979)
No. 300: Amherst 10, Williams 2 (1984)
No. 400: Amherst 1, Williams 0 (1989)
No. 500: Amherst 11, Skidmore 1 (1995)
No. 600: Amherst 21, Fitchburg State 1 (1999)
No. 700: Amherst 18, Keene State 4 (2004)
No. 800: Amherst 15, Bowdoin 8 (2009)