Marlin Ikenberry, Head Baseball Coach
“The success our program has
had in the past 6 years has come from the major support from our alums, fans
and parents. With the Keydet Club’s hard work and dedication combined
with our coaching staff, our program is on the door step of winning a
championship. Your support is necessary to help our cadet-athletes achieve this
Marlin Ikenberry ’95
Head Baseball Coach
Over the past eight seasons, the VMI baseball program has established itself as one of the top programs in the state and region, thanks to winning games against top-10 teams, receiving national rankings and having players selected in the MLB draft for seven straight years. In recent years, the Keydets have also posted three straight winning seasons for the first time in 52 years, had five winning seasons in six years for the first time ever and defeated a ranked team five out of the past seven seasons. All these accolades have been achieved under the leadership of head coach Marlin Ikenberry.
Ikenberry recently concluded his eighth season, 2011, as the winningest coach in program and Institute history. He won his 200th career game on May 5 against Bucknell, closed the season with 221 career victories, a total that ranks fifth in Big South history.
The season saw Sam Roberts named a semifinalist for the Brooks Wallace Award, given to the nation's top shortstop, as he completed a year that saw him finish in VMI's career top-10 in 12 different categories. That included finishing first in hits, walks and runs scored, and his strong 2011 campaign saw Roberts be one of two Keydets named First Team All-Big South, joining catcher Alex Haitsuka. That marked the first time since 2005 that VMI had posted multiple players on the Big South's First Team. Roberts went on to be taken in the 26th round of the MLB draft by Oakland.
Outfielder Graham Sullivan, meanwhile, led the team in hitting and cracked the program's top-10 list in hits, batting average and total bases en route to Second Team All-Conference laurels. As a whole, the squad posted its fifth-best batting average ever and had the sixth-most hits in program history.
On the mound, the team posted its fourth-lowest ERA in the aluminum bat era (4.61), as well as the fourth-lowest walks per nine innings rate (2.83). It also had its fourth-most strikeouts (377), second-most saves (15) and tied for the second-most shutouts in school history (4). Jason Farley and Jeremy Brown each had seasons that ranked in the program's top-10 in fewest walks per nine innings, while Coby Cowgill ranked 10th in the Big South in ERA and fourth in opponents batting average.
2010 was also kind to Ikenberry's charges, as they earned VMI's first win over a top-ranked team in Institute history, beating #1 Virginia at Gray-Minor Stadium. This year's team set new school records for batting average (.325), slugging percentage (.529), hits (629), runs (414), doubles (133), home runs (78), RBIs (390), at bats (1933) and total bases (1022).
On the mound, the staff’s 441 strikeouts were tied for the most in school history, while the team’s 8.26 strikeouts per nine innings rate is the third-best. In addition, the 11 saves the team posted was tied for fourth on the list and the 3.46 walks per nine innings rate came in seventh. Finally, the team’s ERA (5.43) ranks 10th in the Alumnium Bat Era.
Ikenberry was named head coach on July 22, 2003, being promoted to the top spot in the program after former head coach Tom Slater departed VMI in the summer of 2003 to accept a coaching position at the University of Florida.
As Slater's top assistant and recruiting coordinator for three years, Ikenberry played a key role in the resurgence of the VMI baseball program that set a school record for victories in 2003 at 24-28. That same year, the Keydets posted a 16-14 mark in the Southern Conference, securing their first winning conference mark since 1969.
Since taking over the program, Ikenberry has continued that success, breaking the school record for wins three times. After winning 23 games in his first year and 27 contests in his second season, historic ground was broken in 2006, when the Keydets won 30 games for the first time in program history, while also marking the first time in 41 years that the program posted a winning record. That success continued in 2007, as Ikenberry guided his squad to a 34-21 record, knocking off a pair teams ranked in the top 10 nationally for the first time in program history. As a result, VMI Baseball earned its first-ever national ranking, being tabbed 30th in the country by Collegiate Baseball in back-to-back weeks while also receiving votes in the Writers’ Poll.
Hailed as one of the state's top recruiters, Ikenberry has signed several players that have enjoyed great success in Lexington. He is responsible for the signing of two Louisville Slugger Freshman All-Americans, a Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, five Big South First-Team All-Conference selections and a 2003 All-SoCon Tournament player.
Ikenberry, 38, served as VMI's recruiting coordinator and pitching and catching coach in 2003 and was vital in the staff's remarkable improvement that season. Working closely with the Keydet pitchers and catchers, Ikenberry helped guide the pitching staff to an improvement of nearly two runs in team earned run average from the previous season.
A 1995 graduate of VMI, Ikenberry played for the Keydets and was recruited by VMI Hall of Famer Chris Finwood, now head coach at Old Dominion. Ikenberry returned to his alma mater in the summer of 2000 after spending three years at the College of William and Mary as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. While in Williamsburg, Ikenberry earned a reputation as one of the state's top recruiters and landed two high school All-Americans and freshman All-Americans.
In 2000, the Tribe of William and Mary finished with a school record 32 wins and placed third in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. The team also set a school record for best fielding percentage at .967. The next season, William and Mary won the CAA Championship and earned a berth in the NCAA Regional Tournament. During his time in Williamsburg, Ikenberry coached future Major Leaguer Brendan Harris and recruited future Major Leaguer Chris Ray and current professional player Chris Shaver.
During his coaching career, Ikenberry has helped guide 28 players onto professional careers in baseball. In recent years, Ikenberry was instrumental in the development of pitchers Trey Barham, Michael Bowman, Travis Smink, Corey Bachman, Duke Acors, Jeremy Harper, Phil Hendrix and J.J. Hollenbeck as well as catchers Andy Barden and Mike Roberts and infielders Matt Smith, Chad Rice, Kelly Sweppenhiser and most recently, Sam Roberts.
As a cadet, Ikenberry was a four-year starting catcher for the Keydets. While playing, he developed a reputation for his excellent defensive skills and his handling of the pitching staff. He also caught for former VMI and major league pitcher Ryan Glynn.
He played on VMI's 1993 squad that advanced to the Southern Conference Championship game and ranked third in the nation in defense. In 1994, he helped the Keydets in setting a then school record for wins along with a third place finish in the Southern Conference Tournament.
A native of Richmond, Va., Ikenberry has two brothers who both attended VMI. Twin brother Merlin Ikenberry was a teammate as a pitcher and designated hitter while his oldest brother Steve Ikenberry is an alum of the class of 1980. Ikenberry is a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School. He married the former Shannon Marshall in August 2000, and their son, Owen, was born in the fall of 2010.