Becomes program’s fifth head coach
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – Former local area standout, Buckeye Elite founder, and Army National Guard veteran Steve Whittaker has been named as the head coach of the Shawnee State softball team, as announced by athletic director Jeff Hamilton.
“We are thrilled to have Coach Whittaker as the newest leader of our softball program here at Shawnee State,” Hamilton said. “His energy and desire to win is infectious and contagious. His experiences while serving in the National Guard shows the character and leadership necessary to lead our student-athletes in the right direction. Lastly, his efforts with what he did in overseeing and developing quality student-athletes inside the Buckeye Elite program shows what he can do when building a program up from the ground floor.”
“It’s truly a dream come true,” Whittaker said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level here at Shawnee State. There’s no doubt in my mind that in the near future, we’ll be making strides as we strive to compete with the best of the best in both the Mid-South Conference as well as in the NAIA. I have a great group of girls and assistants around me who love to compete and we are all ready to push forward.”
Whittaker, who is a 1985 graduate of Portsmouth West High School over in West Portsmouth, Ohio, was a four-year letterman in baseball and in golf as well as a two-year letterman in track for the Senators, and led off for West while playing in the outfield.
Following his graduation from West, Whittaker chose to serve America as the area native joined the Ohio Army National Guard and spent the next 23 years serving in that respective branch of the military. During that time, Whittaker served a tour of duty during the War on Iraq, with his tour lasting from 2004 to 2005.
In 2005, Whittaker founded the Buckeye Elite softball program, a travel team that competed inside and outside of Ohio’s boundaries.
Since the inception of Buckeye Elite back in 2005, Whittaker has been responsible for growing the program from a single travel team into a total of nine different travel clubs under one operation while sending at least a dozen individuals to colleges and universities from the NAIA to the NCAA Division I level.
During this time, Whittaker won approximately 350 games in a 10-year stretch while losing just 85 over the same period – an average of 35 wins to just 8.5 losses per year in leading the Buckeye Elite program to one World Series title, one Runner-Up finish, and three Final Four appearances while going up against the best travel teams in the country.
Joining Whittaker in his efforts with building the Shawnee State program will be Dusty Salyers, Dan Stevenson, and Jeremy Slusher.
Salyers will be charge with developing the infielders while Whittaker will coach the outfielders and the pitchers. Stevenson will be the hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator, and Slusher will be the program’s strength and conditioning coach.
“They bring experience, work ethic, and chemistry to the table,” Whittaker said of his assistants. “Dusty’s been with me for 10 years and we already have the bond of knowing and trusting in what the other wants to do during a game. Dan has a calm demeanor and knows how to get the most out of the players at the plate. Jeremy is the best personal trainer in the area. The players respect him and know that he wants the best for them academically, athletically, and personally.”
Whittaker says that he’s looking forward to the challenges that the Mid-South Conference will provide for his youthful ballclub.
“Personally, I can’t wait, because playing good, quality teams are the only way that we’re going to be able to get to where we want to be, and that’s what the Mid-South Conference has,” Whittaker said.
Overall, Whittaker inherits a youthful group at Shawnee State, as 11 of the Bears’ 17 players are underclassmen. This includes Whttaker’s daughter, McKenzie, who will start her freshman year with Shawnee State in the spring.