In his 13 years in as Nebraska-Kearney's head baseball coach, Damon Day has brought unprecedented success to the program.
As skipper, he has has guided UNK to 352 wins, two RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) Tournament titles, one RMAC regular season championship and four NCAA Tournament appearances.
Under Day’s tutelage the Lopers saw their first appearance in the NCAA Division II Top 25 poll, as well as winning 30 games in back-to-back season for the first time in the program's six decade history.
Day has also coached 72 all-conference players, 17 all-region selections and the first four Division II All-Americans in program history.
Since 2004, UNK players have also gone on to play in the professional ranks. Former Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain spent his freshman year in Kearney with pitcher Ryan Sheldon and position players Tyler Keeble, Brandon Landanger, Cody Lusero and Brian Wuest having played in pro independent leagues around the country.
Off the field, Lusero ('07) and Blake Cover ('10) were tabbed as CoSIDA Academic All-Americans with three others being voted Academic All-District. In addition, three players have been named UNK's Male Scholar Athlete of the Year.
In Day’s first season, a freshman-dominated squad won 19 times while playing one of the nation's toughest schedules.
Along the way, the Lopers picked up victories over nationally-ranked squads from CSU-Pueblo and Colorado Mesa. Chamberlain, an All-RMAC choice, was instrumental in those wins.
His peers tabbed Day as RMAC Coach of the Year, an award he also claimed in 2011 when the Lopers fell a win shy of reaching the D2 College World Series.
Two years later, UNK posted its first winning campaign in a decade. The 2006 year also marked the Lopers first trip to the RMAC Tournament since 1997.
Day then led the Lopers to back-to-back RMAC Tourney titles and 30 wins seasons in 2007 and 2008. Both of those springs ended with trips to the NCAA's, the first time a Kearney program had made a national tournament since the 1980's.
The 2007 team was led by Lusero, the RMAC Player of the Year and an All-American. The second/third baseman hit .440 and belted a three-run homer as UNK shocked No. 1 Sonoma State (Calif.), 8-7, in the first round of the NCAA West Regional.
In 2008, the pitching staff led the charge as Sheldon struck out a school-record 96 batters en route to being named the league's top pitcher. Also, senior Ryan Wrobel tossed a nine inning complete game as UNK won another NCAA West Regional game in California.
Sheldon repeated as RMAC P.O.Y. the following spring as he set school marks for K's (105), wins (nine) and games started (15).
On the way to winning a then-school record 36 games in 2010, UNK claimed the Plains Division and hosted the conference tournament for the first time. That also marked the first year the Lopers received an at-large bid to the NCAA's.
Senior Jared Loschen won nine games, putting his career total to a program record of 27.
Day oversaw the best season in Loper history in 2011 as UNK won 38 games, claimed the RMAC regular season title and won three games in the NCAA Central Regional in Minnesota.
The senior-heavy roster featured six All-RMAC selections, including four first teamers, two of those being All-American first baseman Andrew Haake and RMAC Pitcher of the Year Todd Stachura.
In 2013, UNK went 22-23 (19-20) in its first year in the MIAA. The season included many, many road trips and several injuries that prevented the Lopers from making the league tournament.
Ending Central Missouri's 49-game conference winning streak, Kearney saw Wuest earn All-American honors, as well as placing in third in voting for the Tino Martinez Award, given annually to the top player in Division II.
In 2014, UNK went 30-17 to reach the MIAA Tournament. Despite a rash injuries to position players, the Lopers were just two games from finishing in second place.
Individually, sophomore right fielder Anthony Pacheco earned All-American honors with five others earning All-MIAA accolades.
A year later, Pacheco and a senior laden roster was again among the best in the MIAA. The Lopers won 29 games and reached the league tournament again while belting 73 homers and setting a new school record for fielding percentage (.964).
Before UNK, Day spent four years as head coach of NAIA Dana College in Blair, Neb. When Day arrived at Dana in 2000, the program had only 13 players, but the Vikings finished as Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) champions four years later.
As a result of that 31-win 2003 season, Day was named GPAC and NAIA Region IV Coach of the Year.
Day, with 411 career victories, got his start in 1998, serving as pitching coach at his alma mater, Benedictine (Ill.) University. He served in the same capacity the following spring at NCAA Division III Lakeland College (Wisc.).
A native of LaPorte, Ind., Day started his collegiate career Kankakee C.C. (Ill.) where he helped his team win the 1995 Region IV championship. He then graduated from Benedictine in 1997 where he was a two-time all-conference player.
Day lives in Kearney with his wife Jessica and their two children, Cody Jon and Emma.
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