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Former U of L Catcher Haywood Promoted to Head Baseball Coach at LMU

Justin Haywood (LMU Athletics Photo)

HARROGATE, Tenn. – Justin Haywood has been named the head baseball coach at Lincoln Memorial University, it was announced Thursday afternoon by Athletics Director Jasher Cox.

Coach Haywood, who was serving as the Railsplitters' top assistant and recruiting coordinator, takes over the reins of the program from Jeff Sziksai, who led LMU the previous 17 seasons and posted a 451-389-3 (.537) cumulative record with three SAC Tournament titles and four NCAA Southeast Regional Championship appearances. Spending five years as an LMU assistant coach, Haywood has been on the Railsplitters' staff for seven seasons beginning as a graduate assistant in 2014.

"It is a blessing to be given the opportunity to lead the baseball program at LMU, for which I would like to thank the Board of Trustees, President Dr. Hess, Dr. Goins, and Jasher Cox," said Haywood. "Thank you, to coach Sziksai for your leadership on and off the field over the last 17 seasons in building this program into a family. LMU is a special place where picturesque mountain views collide with first-class academics and a culture of excellence athletically."

"My wife and I look forward to the journey, taking this program to new heights as it continues its climb to the top of the mountain," Haywood continued. "It is my goal to positively impact the lives of our players and our community. To quote Jackie Robinson, 'A life is not important, except for the impact it has on other lives.'"

An integral part of LMU's three consecutive 30-win campaigns and three-straight NCAA Southeast Regional Championship appearances from 2017-19, Haywood was primarily responsible for the team's hitters and catchers and took over the Railsplitters' recruiting efforts in the fall of 2019. Under his guidance, LMU's offense flourished with the Railsplitters ranking near the top of the South Atlantic Conference in several key categories every year.

Helping lead LMU to back-to-back SAC Tournament championships in 2017 and 2018, the program's first conference titles since 2013, Haywood mentored a total of 12 All-SAC selections and five all-region players as a full-time assistant. During his seven seasons in Harrogate, the Railsplitters have gone 195-132-1 (.596) and notched a 98-61 (.616) mark in league play with six top-four conference finishes. LMU was the SAC's regular season runner-up in 2017 and 2019 and reached new heights by picking up its first two NCAA tournament wins in program history after going unscathed in the 2017 SAC Tournament. In 2018, the Railsplitters bested their 35 wins from a season ago with a program-record 36 victories and an upset of top-ranked Georgia College in the opening round of the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship in Tigerville, South Carolina.

During his first season at LMU in 2014, Haywood aided the Railsplitters to a top-three finish in the conference in batting average (.308), doubles per game (1.93), home runs (39), home runs per game (0.87), on-base percentage (.398), runs (327), scoring (7.3 runs/game) and slugging percentage (.461) as LMU compiled a 27-17-1 record. In 2015, Haywood's second season as a graduate assistant, the Railsplitters increased their batting average (.314), home runs (46), home runs per game (1.00) and slugging percentage (.478).

That trend continued in 2016 after Haywood stepped into a full-time assistant role with LMU ranking in the top-three of the league in nearly every significant offensive category, including batting average (.315), on-base percentage (.422), slugging percentage (.471), fewest strikeouts (261), RBI (389), doubles (114), runs scored (444) and walks (259).

The Railsplitter offense was again among the best in the SAC in 2017. With LMU boasting a 35-19 record, the Railsplitters ranked in the top-three in the conference in runs (455), hits (587), doubles (123), homers (61), RBI (421), total bases (913), on-base percentage (.413), slugging percentage (.490) and batting average (.315).

In 2018, the team continued its offensive improvement by breaking the program's single-season record for runs scored with 479, surpassing the mark held briefly by the 2017 squad. LMU also established new program records for hits (623), doubles (125), RBI (424), total bases (971) and walks (273), while producing the second-most homers (65) and going 36-21 on the year.

Prior to the 2020 season being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis, the Railsplitters claimed 34 wins for the third-straight year with a 34-19 record in 2019. Going 18-6 in league action, LMU tied its best mark and finish in the SAC while ranking among conference leaders in several offensive categories, including hits (536), home runs (53), home runs per game (1.00), runs (392), slugging percentage (.456) and triples (15).

Under Haywood's tutelage as a full-time assistant, infielders Chris Salvey, Tyler Adams and Timmy Wages, along with outfielders Nate Stinson and Logan Augustine, garnered All-SAC First Team accolades. Outfielders Seth Hunt, Will Reddick and Erik Kalman have picked up All-SAC Second Team plaudits as outfielders Mason Ewers and Wes Neiderland, catcher Russell Clark and infielder Jean Rodriguez also collected all-conference recognition. Additionally, Salvey, Adams, Stinson, Augustine and Wages were placed on all-region teams by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA). Off the field, a trio of Railsplitters were named CoSIDA Academic All-District with starting left-handed pitcher Ethan Elliott and Hunt landing a spot on the team in 2019 and Augustine earning the distinction in 2016.

Before becoming a full-time member of the staff at LMU, Haywood spent summers as an assistant coach for the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he helped win an East Division II title in 2014. Combining his time with both the Railsplitters and Mariners, Haywood has seen 20 of his former players sign Major League Baseball (MLB) contracts, including first-round picks Ian Happ and Jonathan Harris.

During his tenure at LMU, three players have signed MLB contracts, Elliott, a San Diego Padres 10th-round draft pick, Logan Sawyer, a Colorado Rockies 29th-round draft choice and Matt Mullenbach, who inked free agent contract with the New York Mets. Salvey also signed a professional contract with the New York Boulders of the Frontier League.

Prior to arriving in Harrogate, Haywood was an assistant coach for two seasons at Division I Marist College of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). During his stint, Haywood's catchers compiled a .989 fielding percentage and gunned down 33 percent of would-be base stealers, while the offense ranked second in the MAAC with a .298 batting average. The Red Foxes went 52-49-1 and had two players selected in the MLB Draft throughout Haywood's time in New York.

Haywood began his collegiate coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Old Dominion University in 2011 under Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Coach of the Year Nate Goulet.

A 2010 University of Louisville graduate, Haywood was a four-year member of the Cardinals baseball program. During his time at Louisville, the Cardinals won four Big East titles, made four NCAA Regional appearances, two Super Regionals and reached the 2007 College World Series, not to mention combining for a 185-77 record. Haywood was twice named to the Big East Academic All-Star team.

Justin is married to the former Lindsay Davis, a four-year letter winner and SAC champion on the LMU women's golf team. Dr. Lindsay Haywood serves as Lincoln Memorial University's director for enrollment services on campus.

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