The Seahawks blossomed in 2012 under the direction of Jason Howell, as they returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. The pitching staff ranked 67th nationally with an ERA of 3.61, saving off nearly two runs a game (1.76) off its ERA in 2011. Tyler McSwain (3.18) and Mat Batts (3.04) keyed the staff's rise in 2012. Relievers Kelly Secrest (2.12), Tom Timoney (2.25), Ricky Holden (2.28) and William Prince (2.77) also strengthened a staff that will be strong in the coming seasons.
McSwain and Batts were named first and third-team All-CAA respectively while McSwain became the program's all-time wins leader in CAA action with 17.
Holden and Secrest proved to be a lethal 1-2 combo in middle relief for the Seahawks. Holden stitched together a 26-inning shutout streak midway through the season and Secrest picked up five wins and tied a UNCW record for strikeouts by a reliever with 12 in retiring all 16 batters he faced against Elon.
In 2011, Daniel Cropper highlighted the Seahawks during the season, finishing with an 8-3 record and signing a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres. Cropper capped his career ranked among UNCW's all-time leaders in games started (50), wins (21) and strikeouts (236).
In 2010, under the direction of Howell, UNCW returned to the top of the CAA, leading the 11-team circuit in ERA (4.58), strikeouts (479) and opponent's batting average (.265). The Seahawks ranked 42nd nationally in ERA and were ninth in hits allowed per game, allowing nine per nine innings.
Cameron Roth, who would be drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, finished fifth in the conference with a 2.98 ERA while Tyler McSwain was ninth with a 4.02 mark. Joining Roth as draft selections were Stephen Harrold (12th round, San Francisco) and Seth Frankoff (27th round, Oakland).
In his first season, Howell made an immediate impact on the staff. Brad Holt and Jeff Hatcher earned first-team All-CAA honors while freshmen Stephen Harrold and Cameron Roth were named All-America in addition to their CAA All-Freshman honors under his guidance. UNCW topped the Colonial Athletic Association in earned run average. In conference play, Seahawk pitchers compiled a league-leading 3.84 ERA and held opponents to a .255 batting average to also pace the 11-team circuit.
Holt, who also earned three All-America honors, was the 33rd pick overall in the Major League Baseball draft after leading the conference with 11 wins and ranking second with a 3.18 ERA.
In 2009, the Seahawks finished third in the CAA in earned run average and boasted one of the top bullpens in the league. Bryan Booth and Tyler McSwain ranked among the conference leaders with six and four saves, respectively. Booth (37) and Steven Davis (29), a CAA All-Rookie selection, finished 1-2 in appearances and McSwain finished fourth with 27.
Daniel Cropper, who missed the previous season (2008) with an injury, rebounded in 2009 and was selected by the Washington Nationals in the MLB draft, but choose to return to school for his junior season.
A native of Millers Creek, N.C., Howell came to UNCW following two seasons as an assistant coach at UNC Chapel Hill. He coached first base while working with the pitching staff under the direction of assistant coach Scott Forbes.
The Tar Heels reached the championship series of the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Neb., in 2007 and 2008. The 2007 pitching staff fashioned a 3.52 earned run average, ranking 12th nationally, and featured draft picks Luke Putkonen (3rd round, Detroit), Andrew Carignan (5th round, Oakland) and Robert Woodard (20th round, San Diego). In 2006, major league draft selections, Andrew Miller (1st round, Detroit), Daniel Bard (1st round, Boston) and national ERA leader Jonathan Hovis (FA, New York (AL)) led the Tar Heels into the finals.
Howell began his coaching career as a pitching coach for the Southern Ohio Copperheads of the Great Lakes League, a summer collegiate league, in 2005.
He played three seasons at Appalachian State before concluding his collegiate career at UNC Chapel Hill, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in 2002. He also graduated from the school in 2008 with a master's degree.
In 2001, he earned Second-Team All-ACC honors after both pitching and playing in the field for the Tar Heels. On the mound, Howell went 6-2 with four saves and was also second on the team with a .350 batting average with 13 doubles and 29 runs batted in. For his efforts, Howell earned the S.H. Basnight Award as the Tar Heels' Most Valuable Pitcher.
Prior to joining the UNC coaching staff, Howell was a member of the Boston Red Sox farm system for four seasons before retiring from professional baseball in 2005. He compiled a 28-14 mark, collected 23 saves and recorded a 3.86 ERA with the Red Sox. In 2002, he paced Boston's minor league circuit with 17 saves for Augusta and later topped the organization in 2003 when he made 48 appearances for Sarasota of the Florida State League.
Howell is no stranger to the Port City, though. He spent the 1999 and 2000 summer seasons as a member of the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.57 ERA in 2000.
Howell married the former Meredith White on Nov. 14, 2009. The couple resides in Wilmington with their daughter Lena (born March 23, 2011) and two dogs, Bodie and Jasper.