Central Missouri State University '03
14th season at JCCC
A former standout relief pitcher at the University of Central Missouri and one of baseball’s bright, young coaches, Eric Horner is in 14th season as an assistant coach with the Cavaliers, and his ninth season as the top assistant to Hall of Fame head coach Kent Shelley. Horner brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience to the table. Horner will aid in the development of all phases of the program with emphasis on pitchers and recruiting.Horner has been instrumental to the success of a program that has racked up incredible numbers during his stint with the Cavaliers. In 13 seasons under head coach Kent Shelley, Horner has helped guide the Cavaliers to five 30-win seasons, six 40-win seasons, one 50-win season, 12 Region VI Tournament berths and two titles, three KJCCC Eastern Division Championships, four KJCCC runner-up finishes and two NJCAA JUCO World Series appearance. Horner has helped Shelley to some of his finest seasons in his hall of fame career. He has helped guide the Cavaliers to season wins of 30, 33, 35, 41, 43, 44, 33, 40, 50, 49 and 46. These win totals are the top 10 for coach Shelley in his 29 seasons at JCCC.
Since being named the top assistant in 2008, the program has also been one of the best, if not the best, among JCCC’s sports teams in the class room. In the 2016 fall semester, 81 percent of the roster produced a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, most in the athletic department. In 2015, 81 percent had a 3.0 as well, second among the JCCC sports teams. Nationally, 26 student-athletes have been recognized for academic achievement by the NJCAA, including seven last year.
In his first season as head assistant coach, Horner helped guide the Cavaliers to one of their best seasons in school history with a 41-18 record, KJCCC runner-up finish, Region VI Championship, and Johnson County’s first ever appearance at the 2008 JUCO World Series where the team finished 9th in the country, which was the highest ranking in JCCC history. The 2008 team was also one of the top academic team in the NJCAA, finishing 16th in the country with a 3.1 team grade point average.
In 2009, Horner helped guide the Cavaliers to an even better season with a 43-14 record. The team also posted a KJCCC runner-up finish, a Region VI Championship berth, and JCCC’s first ever season of being ranked in the top 15 in the country all season long. JCCC was ranked as high as seventh, which is the highest in program history, and finished 2009 ranked 14th in the country. The 2009 team was again one of the top academic teams in the country, finishing eighth in the NJCAA with a team grade point average of 3.3.
In 2010, Horner again helped guide the team to another school record campaign. The 2010 team finished with a 44-14 record, which ranks as the fourth-best season win total in JCCC baseball history, and best since 1986. The team also captured a Region VI Championship berth and a KJCCC Eastern Division Championship, the first in 1984. The 2010 team finished 12th in the country in the final NJCAA poll and fourth nationally academically with a grade point average of 3.32. Their fourth-place showing is the highest the Cavaliers have finished in the NJCAA Academic Poll.
In 2011, the Cavaliers finished 33-26 and were one of only 13 teams to appear in the first five NJCAA polls. Johnson County qualified for its fifth straight Region VI Tournament berth, falling in the super regional championship game. The 2011 team also excelled in the classroom, posting a grade point average of 3.12. That ranked the Cavaliers 13th overall, marking the fourth consecutive season they team has finished among the top 16 academic teams in the country.
The 2012 season saw the Cavaliers post a 40-18 record and were ranked in the national polls for a fifth consecutive year. The 2012 Cavaliers also captured the KJCCC Eastern Division Championship, giving the program its second title in three years. JCCC earned the top seed in the Region VI tournament, but lost in the super region championship game. Off the field, the 2012 Cavaliers were again one of the top academic teams in the country, finishing seventh with a grade point average of 3.26. It marks the fifth straight year the JCCC baseball team has finished nationally ranked on the field and in classroom.
The 2014 squad won a record 50 games, captured both the East Jayhawk Conference and Region VI titles, and qualified for the NJCAA JUCO World Series for the second time in his career and the program’s history. In 2015, JCCC nearly matched that win total, finishing 49-11 overall and ranked eighth in the final NJCAA poll.
As pitching coach, Horner has helped turn the Cavaliers into one of the top pitching programs in the country and helped rewrite the record books. Under his watch the Cavalier pitching staff has produced the top eight team earned run averages in JCCC history under Shelley. His 2005 pitching staff finished with a 3.38 ERA (7th), followed by the 2007 staff which finished with a 2.51 ERA (2nd); 2008 staff finished with a 2.70 ERA (3rd); 2009 staff finished with a 2.34 ERA (1st); 2010 staff finished with a 3.37 ERA (6th) 2011 staff finished with at 3.22 (5th) his 2012 staff finished with a 2.78 ERA (5th) and the 2014 staff had an ERA of 3.58 (4th). Horner guided the Cavaliers to three consecutive seasons with a team ERA under 3.0 from 2007 to 2009, and in 2012 and 2013. Additionally, 10 of his 11 staffs have been under 4.00, almost unheard of at the collegiate level. Horner’s pitching staffs have led the KJCCC five times, place second twice and have consistently been ranked among the top staffs in the nation year-in and year-out.
The 2007 staff was one of the best in all of junior college baseball. They produced a 2.51 team ERA that was the best in the conference, and among the top in the NJCAA. The 2007 staff also set record numbers for fewest walks (138), ERA (2.51), and opponent batting average (.249). In addition, Horner mentored Justin Miller, who was selected in the sixth round (207th overall pick) by the Los Angeles Dodges in the June 2007 Major League Baseball draft.
The 2008 staff was again one of the best in all of junior college baseball. They produced a 2.70 team ERA that was the best in the conference for the second straight year. The 2008 staff set record numbers for innings pitched (426), strikeouts (334), and complete games (17). In addition, Horner mentored Brandon Droge, Travis Blankenship, and Dustin Holthaus who rank as some of the best pitchers in JCCC history. Droge was voted 1st team all conference, 1st team all region, and selected as an All-American. He was ranked in the top 10 nationally in ERA with a 1.28. He is the first pitcher to earn All-Region since 1996, and first to earn All-American since Bob Downs in 1974. Blankenship was voted 2nd team all conference and led the team with an 11-3 record. His 11 wins tie the season record at JCCC, and his 18 total career victories are a new school record. Blankenship, who has signed with the University of Kansas, also ranks first all-time in career innings pitched (155), career games started (28) and ranks first in career strikeouts with 135. Holthaus finished with 13 career wins, which ties him for ninth all-time and his is tied for 12th with 17 career starts.
The 2009 staff was his best yet, producing a team ERA of 2.34. His staff led the conference for a third straight year and was again one of the best in country. The 2009 staff also set record numbers for opponent batting average (.246), fewest walks (123), ERA (2.34), saves (12) and fewest hits allowed (389). In addition, Horner mentored four pitchers who received all-conference awards in 2009, the most in school history.
The 2010 season marked the fourth straight season the Cavaliers hurlers led the conference and were among the best in the country finishing with a 3.37 team ERA. This staff set record numbers for opponent batting average (.245) most innings pitched (413) and shattered most strikeouts (375). In addition, Horner also had four pitchers garner all-conference awards in 2010, which tie the most in school history. Ryan Garman (Grand Valley State), Gil Rehwinkel (Lipscomb University), Zach Smith (St. Louis University) and Zach Gove (Emporia State) were his all-conference pitchers.
2011 saw the pitching staff finish second in the conference with a 3.22 team ERA. Horner also mentored Jeff Soptic and Vince Spilker, who were the only Kansas community college pitchers selected in the 2011 Major League Draft. Soptic wend became the highest draft pick in JCCC history after he was taken in the third round with 110th pick by the Chicago White Sox. Soptic, who was one of the only a few pitchers in the country to reach 100 mph, signed a professional contract in July with the Sox. Spilker was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 20th round (614th overall). He also was selected as an all-conference performer. Horner also mentored all-conference pitcher Wes Torrez and all-conference and all-region right-hander Cody Schumacher. Overall, his 2011 staff set new team records for opponent batting average (.239) and strikeouts (395).
2012 may have been some of Horner’s finest work. The Cavaliers entered the 2012 season having lost its entire starting staff to the Major League Draft and NCAA D-I programs, yet the Cavaliers were still able to produce a 2.78 team ERA and set a new school record for strikeouts with 396. This was Horner’s fourth staff to finish under a 3.00 ERA, and the team captured the East Jayhawk title for the second time in three years. One of the aces was drafted in the 16th round of the Major League Draft and was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies.
The 2013 pitching staff produced an overall ERA of 2.79, and produced the third highest season strikeout total in team history with 380. Honor also played a key role in the development of right-hander Matt Blackham. He finished among the top season strikeout pitchers in team history, and was selected as a second-team all-conference performer. A year later he was 29th round draft pick of the New York Mets and later signed a professional contract.
Horner’s 2014 staff will be remembered as one of the most dominant staffs in the program’s history. They shattered the team strikeout record with 479 while producing a record 50 wins. One of the aces, Aaron Schnurbusch, posted a 12-2 record and tied for second nationally in total wins while on his way to earning All-America honors. He also is one of only two pitchers in team history to record over 100 strikeouts in a season. The other is Connor Miller, who mowed down a record 108 in 93 innings of work. He also won nine games, which ranked tied for 22nd in the NJCAA. Both pitchers will showcase their arms at the NJCAA D-I level in 2015, Schnurbusch at the University of Pittsburgh, and Miller at Creighton University.
The 2015 staff produced three pitchers with eight more wins, including a perfect 9-0 mark by left-hander Derek Hurt. Four member of his staff earned all-conference honors, and one, closer Wally Nellor was an All-Region VI pick.
Last season, the Cavaliers pitching staff ranked 15th in the NJCAA and led the Kansas Jayhawk Conference with a team ERA of 3.71. The staff also led the KJCCC and set a new team record with 573 strikeouts Additonally, Horner had six pitchers earn all-conference honors
In his 13 years as recruiting coordinator, Horner has recruited and/or coached 90 all conference selections, 19 All region selections, seven All-Americans, one Region Player of the year, three Conference Players of the Year, two JUCO All-Stars, 26 NJCAA Academic Award Winners, two Rawlings Big Stick Award and two Rawlings Gold Glove Winners. Fifty-four players have gone onto the division I level, 80 players have gone on to the division II level, 17 players have played NAIA, and 18 players have gone onto professional baseball.
In addition to his duties with the team, Horner directs the highly successful JCCC summer baseball camps, showcases, indoor leagues and private lessons during the year. Horner also serves an adjunct assistant professor in the business department, is the general manager for Seaboard in the Ban Johnson League.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Horner was a member of a Division II NCAA powerhouse at CMSU. The Mules recorded four consecutive top-five finishes at the NCAA D II World Series, including a National Championship in 2003. The team also placed second, third, and fifth during his playing career. Horner played a prominent role in each of his four seasons for CMSU, compiling an 11-2 record along with 15 saves. He set the conference and school records for single-season saves, career saves, single-season appearances, and career appearances. His Senior season, Horner had 31 appearances and posted a 2.50 earned run average with 51 strikeouts, 8 saves, 13 walks, and held opponents to a .216 batting average. His efforts earned him first-team All-MIAA accolades.
Following a successful collegiate career, Horner signed a free agent minor league contract to play wit the Springfield/Ozark Mountain Ducks of the Central Baseball League. In his first professional season, Horner compiled a team-best 2.25 ERA and became the number two starter in the rotation. After the sale of the team, Horner signed in the off-season with the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League.
Horner graduated from Central Missouri with a degree in finance, and earned his master’s in business administration from St. Mary’s University.
Horner and his wife, Katie, reside in Olathe Kan. The couple has a 10-year old daughter, Halee Ann, and a seven-year old son, Hunter Steven.