Blake Allen returns to Vanderbilt after spending the last seven seasons at Western Kentucky. Allen served as the volunteer assistant coach for the Commodores for four seasons before leaving for the Hilltoppers, where he guided the team's pitchers and recruiting efforts.
Allen mentored Justin Hageman and Ian Tompkins to First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference honors in 2014, which was WKU's first all-conference pitching duo since the 2010 season. Hageman registered nine quality starts and won all six of his games in conference action on his way to all-conference accolades with an ERA of 2.62. Hageman was a two-time Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week and flourished as a senior in WKU's Friday night starting role. Tompkins set a single-season record with 14 saves in 2014, which included two saves in a three-game sweep over Illinois and a four-out save at No. 4 Vanderbilt on Feb. 25. Tompkins went on to get drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 14th round after posting a career strikeouts per nine innings clip of 12.38, which ranked third among active NCAA pitchers before he left.
He was also key in the development of young pitchers Josh Bartley, Ryan Thurston and Sam Higgs in 2014. Bartley strung together a quality start in WKU's 3-2 win over No. 4 Vanderbilt, tossing five scoreless and hitless innings before surrendering his first damage in the sixth inning. He earned a start the next weekend against Illinois, registering another win and quality start before solidifying himself in WKU's weekend rotation. Thurston was stellar as a midweek starter and reliever down the stretch as he allowed just three runs in his final 28 innings of the season. The rookie southpaw took a no-hitter into the ninth inning at No. 18 Indiana, did not allow a run in a start at No. 12 Louisville and picked up his first-career win against Austin Peay on April 29. Allen also put his trust in rookie reliever Sam Higgs in 2014 as he appeared in more games than any pitcher but Tompkins.
WKU finished 2014 with a 4.35 ERA, marking the fourth time in the past five season the Hilltoppers posted an ERA of lower than 4.50. The Hilltopper pitching staff surrendered the fewest doubles (76) and nine fewer extra-base hits (116) than any Sun Belt Conference team in 2014.
Allen was instrumental in Ryan Huck's stellar senior campaign in 2013, helping raise his average 135 points between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Under Allen's tutelage, Huck led the Sun Belt Conference in slugging percentage at .694 and was the only player in the league to rank Top 5 in all three triple crown categories. Huck ranked second in batting average (.367) and home runs (16) while coming in fifth with 56 RBI. Huck was named a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection at first base, becoming just the fifth WKU first baseman in history to earn the honor. Huck was also one of six finalists for the Gregg Olson "Breakout Player of the Year" Award and wound up being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 27th round of the 2013 MLB Draft.
Allen took the reigns over WKU's pitching in 2012 and led WKU to a school record 474 strikeouts in 2013. Five different Hilltopper pitchers struck out 50 or more batters during the 2013 season while WKU led the Sun Belt in strikeouts looking with 163. During the 2012-13 seasons under Allen's tutelage, WKU struck out a Sun Belt Conference high 343 batters looking.
Junior Austin Clay and sophomore Ian Tompkins emerged as lethal options out of the bullpen, combining to strike out 115 batters in 109 innings of work. The duo limited hitters to a .211 batting average and surrendered just 44 earned runs. WKU finished the regular season with an average of 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings, ranking eighth nationally.
Allen served as WKU's recruiting coordinator during the Myers era and ushered in a new wave of talent in the 2013-14 signing class that contributed immediately. Junior college transfer Ryan Church earned second team All-Sun Belt Conference honors after leading WKU with 38 RBI and seven home runs while batting .306 at first base. Fellow JUCO transfers Cody Wofford and Philip Diedrick also contributed significantly, combining for 85 hits, 43 RBI and 29 extra-base hits. Freshmen Ryan Thurston and Sam Higgs were vital bullpen pieces and freshman catcher Hunter Wood collected 15 RBI in limited pinch-hit at-bats. Allen's 2014-15 class brings in the program's first-ever Kentucky Mr. Baseball winner in Henderson County's Kaleb Duckworth.
Before taking on his pitching coach duties, Allen worked primarily with WKU's hitters. Jared Andreoli, who spent all four years under Allen, ended his career with his name etched in numerous categories in the Hilltopper baseball record books, including ranking second in WKU history in hits (287) and third in runs scored (196).
In his five years working with hitters at WKU, the Hilltoppers hit over .300 as a team for the year on two different occassions, including a .330 team average in 2009 - Allen's first year. WKU ended Allen's first season on the Hill in the top six in all nine single-season team categories and set new program marks for at bats (2,190), runs (538) and RBI (490).
The 2009 season also ranks second all-time in school history for total bases (1,152) and walks (290), third in home runs (88) and triples (21), fourth in batting average (.330) and sixth in doubles (124).
Allen witnessed Hilltopper position players move on to the next level, as nine different position players have been drafted in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft since 2009. That list includes 2011 draftee and former Hilltopper outfielder Kes Carter, who was tabbed as the 56th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays - the highest draft pick in school history. Allen also helped develop Wade Gaynor into a third-round selection by the Detroit Tigers in 2009. Gaynor won a MiLB Gold Glove at third base with the Class Double AA Eerie Seawolves in 2013 and was bumped up to the Triple-A Toledo Mudhens early in the 2014 season. In all, 20 players have signed professional baseball contracts since Allen's arrival on the Hill.
In Allen's four years with the Vanderbilt program, he worked primarily with hitters and catchers and also assisted with the team's strength and conditioning program. During his four seasons with the Commodores, Allen was part of three NCAA Regional teams, as well as an SEC championship team in 2007. The 2007 team was ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of the season and received the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Allen worked with two catchers in his four years at Vanderbilt that were drafted in the top 20 rounds of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Brian Hernandez was taken in the 19th round of the 2006 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, and Shea Robin was a 20th round selection in 2008 by the Houston Astros. In four seasons at Vanderbilt, Allen tutored 38 players that ended up signing professional baseball contracts.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Allen began his collegiate playing career at DePauw (Ind.) University and finished at Blackburn (Ill.) College. At Blackburn, Allen was an all-conference and record-setting performer in both baseball and football.
He joined the Vanderbilt coaching staff after one year as baseball recruiting coordinator and linebackers/special teams coach for football at Franklin (Ind.) College. While there, he worked with the catchers and hitters, and also was involved with the strength and conditioning program as the baseball team set a record for home runs in a season and finished with its second-best victory total in team history.
Allen began his collegiate playing career at DePauw and finished at Blackburn College, where he earned his degree in 2001. At Blackburn he was an all-conference and record-setting performer in both football at baseball.
He joined Vanderbilt after one year as baseball recruiting coordinator and linebackers/special teams coach for football at Franklin College. While there he worked with the catchers and hitters and also was involved with the strength and conditioning program as the baseball team set a record for home runs in a season and finished with its second-highest victory total ever.
Prior to that he was a graduate assistant for both football and baseball for two years at DePauw University.
Allen earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Blackburn College in 2001 and a Masters Degree in Kinesiology from Indiana State University in 2003.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Allen is married to the former Cristin Czubik. The couple has two daughters, Keelyn and Quinley Jane.