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Head coach Keith Guttin discusses the the Bears' extra-innings 4-3 victory over Dallas Baptist in college baseball at Hammons Field on Friday, April 3.
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One of the most successful baseball coaches in Missouri Valley Conference history, Keith Guttin began his MSU head coaching career in 1983, and has spent the past 32 seasons building the Bears into one of the top programs in the country. Under Guttin, the Bears have won 61 percent of their games, averaging nearly 34 victories a year and racking up eight 40-win seasons.
Guttin, who enters the 2015 season 13th among active Division I head coaches in career victories, has been a part of the MSU baseball program as a player, assistant coach and head coach for 37 of the program's 51 years. He took the helm of Bears baseball at the start of the 1983 season, coinciding with the move of Missouri State athletics to Division I status. He inherited the reins of the program from its only previous head baseball coach, former Missouri State Director of Athletics Bill Rowe. Guttin ultimately helped stretch MSU's string of consecutive winning seasons to 32 in a row, easily the longest of any Missouri State athletics team. His 1,089 career wins are the most recorded by any head coach in the 107-year history of Missouri State athletics, and the Bears have finished in the top half of the conference race in all but three of his 32 seasons.
During Guttin's tenure, 109 Bears have signed professional contracts, including four first-round draft picks and 14 players who have advanced to the Major Leagues. Additionally, MSU has won 11 regular-season or conference tournament championships and made eight Division I NCAA Tournament appearances, including seven in the last 19 years. In 2003, Guttin led the Bears to the NCAA Division I College World Series for the first time in school history, marking the only trip to Omaha by a Division I team from the state of Missouri since 1965. He has been a conference coach of the year 10 times and was selected the American Baseball Coaches Association Division I Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 1997 and again in 2003.
Guttin's pupils have produced results off the diamond as well. Missouri State baseball players have been recognized on the Valley's all-academic team 53 times since the inception of the honor in 1992. Additionally, seven Bears have garnered academic All-America honors on 12 different occasions under Guttin, including three-time selection Brian Mahaffey.
In 2013, Guttin guided the Bears to their third consecutive 30-win campaign, despite losing two weekend starting pitchers to injuries and having to replace three-fourths of MSU's infield from its 2012 NCAA Regional-qualifying club. The 31-23 season represented the 25th time the Bears have logged at least 30 victories under Guttin. Furthermore, MSU set a school record team fielding percentage (.972) in 2013 and recorded the third-lowest club ERA (3.12) in the five-decade history of the program.
Early in MSU's breakthrough 2012 season, Guttin became the 46th Division I baseball coach and the third Valley bench boss to reach the 1,000 career-win mark with the Bears' 3-2 victory over Northwestern State on March 3.
After narrowly missing out on NCAA Tournament bids in three of the previous four seasons, Guttin guided a veteran-laden 2012 MSU squad to a 40-22 season that culminated in the Bears' first trip to the postseason since 2003. Along the way, MSU set numerous program records, including an all-time best team earned run average (2.57), thanks in large part to pitcher Nick Petree, who became the program's first Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year (Collegiate Baseball) after posting a Division I-low ERA of 1.01.
Missouri State returned to the top of The Valley in 2009, finishing the league schedule with a 17-5 record after sweeping Creighton and Indiana State in the final two weeks of the season. Both CU and ISU entered its series with MSU atop the MVC standings.
MSU's stellar 2009 season followed a 2008 campaign when the team went 40-17 overall, earning Guttin his 10th conference coach of the year honor.
In 2007, Ross Detwiler was selected sixth overall in the MLB Draft, the highest pick in school history, and the Bears came within a win of the NCAA Tournament in 2006 before falling in the MVC Tournament finals.
MSU's first-ever NCAA Division I College World Series appearance in 2003 capped a season in which the Bears won the MVC regular season title for the second time in three seasons. The Bears' NCAA Tournament trip was the second straight NCAA berth and the sixth appearance in nine years for MSU. That year, Guttin garnered the American Baseball Coaches Association Midwest Region Coach of the Year award and his second MVC Coach of the Year honor in three seasons. It was his third conference honor since the Bears joined the Valley and it was Guttin's ninth conference Coach of the Year recognition in 23 years as a head coach.
In 2002, the Bears posted their first 40-win season since 1991 and won the second-most games in school history and the most since winning a school record 47 games in 1987. Missouri State advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in eight years but the first time since 1999.
In 2001, Guttin led the Bears to their first-ever MVC regular season championship and, in the process, dethroned perennial league powerhouse Wichita State. The Shockers had previously won outright or shared the Valley regular season crown in the previous 14 years, but the Bears posted a 22-10 record in 2001 and beat WSU by one game in the final league standings.
While the accomplishments of Guttin's teams on the field speak volumes about the success of his program, another dream came true in April 2004 when the Bears opened a sparkling 8,000-seat stadium just four blocks north of the Missouri State campus. The Bears finished the year ninth among NCAA Division I teams in attendance, playing only a portion of their home schedule at Hammons Field.
It was merely a coincidence that the crown jewel of the Missouri State baseball program came one year after the Bears exploded onto the national college baseball radar in the College World Series. But both events show the growth of college baseball in the Ozarks and the amount of community and administrative support the program had received in the last several years. With the continued support of the MSU community, Guttin has led the Bears' efforts in numerous charitable endeavors, including the program's annual Price Cutter Celebrity Golf Classic, proceeds from which have been committed to Champion Athletes of the Ozarks in each of the last 19 years. MSU's popular First Pitch and Reunion Night has also been a positive force for both the Bears and a variety of local charitable organizations. The annual preseason kickoff event has benefitted entities such as the Miracle League Ball Field, Care to Learn, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Bears have finished lower than third in the league standings just five times since Guttin took over. Guttin directed Missouri State to six straight league titles in Mid-Continent play from 1984 through 1989. He gave MSU its first two Valley postseason tournament championships in 1996 and 1997. He was voted the MVC Coach of the Year in 1993, 2001, 2003 and 2008 and was selected the American Baseball Coaches Association Division I Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 1997 and again in 2003.
Missouri State ran through MCC regular season and tourney play annually from 1983 through 1989. The Bears faltered only once, finishing as tourney runner-up in 1990, their final MCC season before moving to the Valley. Guttin was named MCC Coach of the Year each season from 1984 through 1989.
In 1986, Missouri State had its best record ever, going 47-14. In 1987, the 38-14 Bears got their first NCAA Division I tourney bid, playing in the West II Regional in Tempe, Ariz. In 1988, the 41-17 Bears became the first team to go through regular season MCC play undefeated, and in 1989 went 41-10 for the third best winning percentage in all of Division I baseball.
The 1990 Bears were 42-15 and again perfect in regular season league play. Missouri State capped the year with Guttin's 300th win and left the Mid-Continent with the best overall, conference and league tourney marks. In 1991, Missouri State joined the Valley, reaching the 40-win plateau and finishing fourth in its first Valley campaign. In 1993, the Bears finished second as Guttin was named MVC Coach of the Year.
The 1995 Bruins were second in the MVC Tournament and added an NCAA visit, playing in the West Regional in Fresno, Calif. In 1996, Missouri State won its first MVC tourney, capped by Guttin's 500th career win, an 8-7 victory over top-ranked Wichita State in the winner's bracket final. Missouri State won its first NCAA Division I tourney games, beating Long Beach State and UCLA to finish third in the Central I Regional in Austin, Texas.
The 1997 Bears repeated the MVC crown and knocked off Texas Tech and Nevada on the way to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Central Regional in Lubbock, Texas. Missouri State was at the Fayetteville regional in 1999, finishing second with wins over Clemson and Arkansas.
Guttin returned to Missouri State in 1982 after a year at Rend Lake College where he served as assistant coach to Kirk Champion as RLC claimed an Illinois JUCO sectional crown. Guttin was a Missouri State assistant under Rowe from 1979 to 1981, as Missouri State won its last MIAA title and made two NCAA appearances.
Guttin had two notable seasons as the Missouri State second baseman, coming from Mineral Area College. He earned MIAA all-conference honorable mention in 1977 as the Bears made their first NCAA Division II tournament appearance in seven years.
A University City native, Guttin finished his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1978, and earned his master's degree in 1984 at Truman State. He and his wife, Marianne, have three daughters; Lauren, Lindsey and Samantha.