College Athletics: Raiders hire new spring coaches
Central Lakes College will have a familiar face and a new face in its dugouts next spring. Raiders athletic director Jim Russell announced June 3 the hirings of Ray Austin as head softball coach and Brian Voigt as head baseball coach. "We're exci...
Central Lakes College will have a familiar face and a new face in its dugouts next spring.
Raiders athletic director Jim Russell announced June 3 the hirings of Ray Austin as head softball coach and Brian Voigt as head baseball coach.
"We're excited for both of them," Russell said. "Both have a passion for what they do."
Austin, a Brainerd High School graduate and CLC alumnus, was the Raiders' assistant coach the last two years to Donnie Tizzano, who resigned to return to Arizona to coach and teach. Austin and Tizzano were 9-20 in their first season but the Raiders went 25-7 this spring winning Northern Division and Region 13B tournaments and finishing eighth in the NJCAA Division III tournament.
"Taking over the head job from Donnie was both an easy and a bittersweet decision,." Austin said. "I am sad to see him go. He is a great coach and I have learned a great deal from him.
"There are just too many good players returning and matched with the incoming players we have, it was impossible to walk away and it made me very excited to keep this program rolling. I am a CLC alum and take pride in the teams from this school doing well."
Austin said it should be a seamless transition from Tizzano to him.
"We are going to walk and talk very much the same as we have for the last two years," Austin said. "I have been really lucky to work under Donnie for two years and Mike Zauhar (at Brainerd High School) before him. Both share many of the same qualities that I feel I have-high expectations of our players and working really hard to help our players meet and surpass those expectations.
"I can't guarantee we will win every game but I can guarantee our kids will compete in every game. On the top page of our team site is the philosophy that Donnie and I came up with last year: 'A team-first attitude, where the goals of the team drive the effort of the individuals, enables the players to become the best student-athletes they can be.'"
Austin added that not much will change in the Raiders' style of play. He will emphasize defense, throwing strikes and outhitting the opposition.
"Last year's team batting average of .380 may be tough to match but we have added some great players," Austin said. "I can't say they will replace the ones that left because kids like Faith Kassulker are not replaceable. But there are strengths in each of our incoming players that I am looking forward to working with."
The 26-year-old Voigt replaces Neil Linhart who has accepted a position as offensive assistant football coach at Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D. The Raiders were 25-70-2 (.263) in Linhart's four seasons and lost their final 24 games this spring.
Voigt hopes to build a nucleus of players from the surrounding area and supplement that core with players from outside the area.
"I hope not only to build them athletic-wise but get their 2-year degree done," Voigt said. "Then, going back to the athletic side, getting them better at baseball, being able to move on and continue playing because a lot of kids' goal is to play at the college level and extend that, keep their dreams going. As long as they're getting their academics taken care of, they can keep playing. I will do my best to get them better as players, compete and get to the postseason."
Voigt graduated from Southland High School in Adams. He played at Riverland Community College for his uncle, Scott Koenigs. He was a 2-time captain at Riverland and a first-team NJCAA All-American shortstop. He graduated from Augustana College in South Dakota where he was a 2-year starter for the Vikings.
He spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Northern State University in Aberdeen and was an assistant in 2013 at Riverland.
Voigt played in the Northwoods League for the Thunder Bay Border Cats in 2010-11, for the Dodge City Athletics in the Jayhawk League in 2010 and for USA Athletes International which toured Europe in 2009.
Voigt said his uncle, who's his godfather, has been a great influence on his playing and coaching career.
"(Riverland) went to the (NJCAA) World Series twice when I was a player and I continued playing," he said. "I came back and wanted to go the coaching route. He gave me my first opportunity.
"He expected a lot of me as an assistant. He said 'Go recruit. This is your program too.' I got thrown to the wolves a little bit but with him guiding me it made everything a lot easier."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .