SMSU Baseball Camps
Head Coach Paul Blanchard
Paul Blanchard, the all-time leader in victories at Southwest Minnesota State University, is in his 22nd season as head coach in 2018.
Blanchard’s 21 seasons at SMSU has been a period marked by consistently competitive and winning baseball. His teams have recorded 501 victories, produced 14 winning seasons and have won 30 or more games four times. The Mustangs have made one NCAA tournament appearance, captured one Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship, three NSIC tournament championships and have made 15 appearances in the NSIC tournament.
Blanchard begins the 2018 season with a career record of 501-453-2, including 282-239 in conference play. He recorded career victory 500th on May 5, 2017.
Named the fifth coach in SMSU history on July 14, 1996, Blanchard has molded the Mustang baseball program into a conference contender year in and year out, while recruiting and coaching some of the best players ever to play at SMSU. He has coached two NSIC Players of the Year, one NSIC Pitcher of the Year, 25 all-region players, four CoSIDA Academic All-Americas, two NCAA All-Americans, two Major League Baseball draft picks and one MLB free agent. He has coached eight players who have played professional baseball following their careers at SMSU.
Under Blanchard’s guidance, SMSU baseball has become synonymous with success. After establishing a solid foundation for Mustang baseball, Blanchard has the baseball program setting its sights for higher goals in the future, which include another NSIC championship and another berth into the NCAA tournament.
One of the most respected coaches in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and NCAA Division II, Blanchard has been a head coach at the junior college and Division II level for 25 seasons.
In his first season as the Mustang skipper in 1997, he led SMSU to a 31-13 overall record and set 15 school records in the process. The Mustangs capped his first season by winning the NSIC tournament championship held in Marshall and finished the season ranked fourth in the country in fielding percentage.
The 1998 season was a memorable one for Southwest Minnesota State as the team finished 33-16, setting a school record for wins in one season. SMSU finished 14-6 in the NSIC, just one game out of the conference championship and just missed making their first ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Mustangs broke five more team records in 1998, finished ranked 10th in the nation in team ERA and for the first time in school history had two players named NCAA II All-Region.
The 1999 season once again saw the Mustangs battle for a NCAA playoff spot. Despite finishing just one game out of the regular season championship and winning their third NSIC tournament championship in four years, the Mustangs finished fifth in the Central Region poll, just missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
The 2000 season saw the Mustangs fight through injuries that sidelined nearly every starter at one point during the season. The team battled and still finished second in the NSIC regular season and played in the championship game of the NSIC tournament.
After a young Mustang squad again suffered through injuries in 2001 to post a modest 21-18 season, SMSU rallied in 2002 to record 31 victories and won four straight games in the NSIC tournament to capture the program’s first NSIC title since 1996.
In 2003, SMSU won 27 games, tying for the fifth most in one season in school history while earning another spot in the NSIC championship tournament. During the 2004 season, SMSU won 30 games, the fourth most in one season and advanced to the NSIC championship tournament.
The 2005 season marked another solid campaign for SMSU as the Mustangs won 26 games and once again advanced to the NSIC championship tournament, before falling in the championship game. Following the conclusion of the 2005 season two Mustang players earned honors rarely seen before at SMSU. Junior pitcher Ryan Morse became SMSU’s second Major League Baseball draft pick, being selected in the 13th round by Tampa Bay, while junior third baseman Colby Pack became SMSU’s first-ever NCAA All-America.
Despite a losing record in 2006, SMSU still advanced to the NSIC tournament where it finished in third place and during the season belted 47 home runs which ranks as the fifth most in school history.
The 2007 season saw SMSU once again post a winning record with 26 victories while finishing with a .336 team batting average ranking second in school history.
In 2008, the Mustangs posted another winning year advancing to the NSIC tournament for the 13th consecutive year, the longest streak by any conference school in league history.
The 2009 season proved to be one of the best in school history as the Mustangs won 10 of its first 11 games and never looked back in earning the program’s first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament. Despite playing only 43 games, SMSU set several team records including batting average, slugging pct., on-base pct., runs scored, home runs, RBI and total bases. SMSU defeated Minnesota State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament before falling to Wayne State and Colorado State-Pueblo. The Mustangs finished the season ranking high in the final NCAA statistics, including third in slugging pct. (.590), fifth in batting average (.365), seventh in home runs per game (1.42), 16th in doubles per game (2.44), 17th in scoring (8.9) and 37th in fielding pct. (.963).
In 2010, the team recorded 29 victories, the fifth highest total in school history, and made a postseason run that nearly lifted the team to another NCAA appearance. Following a loss in the NSIC tournament first round, the Mustangs won three straight games to advance to the tournament championship game before losing 6-5. The team was ranked No. 8 in the NCAA region rankings entering the tournament, but the late season run was not enough to qualify for the top six. Following the season, Mustang pitcher Adam Schrader was drafted in the 36th round by the San Diego Padres, while first baseman Andrew Kinney was signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians.
SMSU struggled in 2011, but did show signs or progress, earning two victories against teams that advanced to the College World Series.
In 2012, SMSU racked up a 21-13 record in late April, including earning a win over a nationally ranked Top 10 team, but finished the season losing 10 of its last 11 games to finish 22-23 and just missed qualifying for the NSIC tournament.
The 2013 season saw SMSU just miss out on the NSIC tournament by one game, despite the fact the team did not play a single home game due to poor weather for the first time in school history. The Mustangs won their final five games and seven of their final eight to finish 17-23-1.
SMSU finished the 2014 season with 27 victories and played in the NSIC tournament for the first time since 2010. Junior Patrick Rients earned All-American honors, belting a school record 19 home runs and also setting school records for total bases and triples.
The 2015 squad closed with a 21-29 record and placed ninth in the NSIC. The team belted 54 home runs and clubbed 107 doubles—both ranking second in the program single-season record book, while the pitching staff struck out a school-record 308 batters.
In 2016, SMSU featured a roster of just three seniors and despite winning just nine games, a young Mustang squad showed signs of a promising future. The 2017 season saw Blanchard reach career victory 500 and a native of Minnetonka, Minnesota, the 55-year old Blanchard played two seasons of baseball at Creighton University before transferring to the University of Minnesota. While at Minnesota, Blanchard played both football and baseball for the Gophers and was a member of the 1982 Big Ten championship baseball team.
Following his playing days at Minnesota, Blanchard made his move to the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant for the baseball team in 1985. During that season, Blanchard received the David Chelesnik Jr. Award for courage, determination and perseverance.
In 1986, Blanchard was named head coach at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota. Blanchard made his first head coaching experience a memorable one, as he led the Lions to a 28-4 record and a trip to the NJCAA World Series. Following the season Blanchard received Region 13 and North Central District Coach of the Year honors.
Following his one season at Normandale, Blanchard returned to the University of Minnesota as an assistant coach, where he spent the 1987, 1988 and 1990 seasons under legendary head coach John Anderson.
Blanchard moved to the high school ranks in 1991 where he became the head coach of Minnetonka High School. During his two-year tenure with the Skippers, his teams were 41-10, won two conference championships and finished third place at the 1992 Class AA state tournament.
In 1993, Blanchard returned to Normandale and revived the magic of 1986. During his three years, he led the program to an overall record of 69-33, which included the 1994 MCCC state championship and a runner-up finish at the Region 13 tournament. During his final season in 1995, he led the Lions to a third-place finish in the region.
After leaving Normandale in 1995, he spent one season as an assistant coach at St. John’s in Collegeville, before taking over at SMSU in the summer of 1996.
Blanchard, who has spoke at numerous regional and national baseball coaches’ conventions, received another honor in 2003. That summer he was named to the USA Baseball staff to help develop the USA Baseball 16-under National Team that competed and won the gold medal at the world championships in Taiwan.
Blanchard earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Minnesota in 1987 and earned his master’s degree from Minnesota in physical education in 1991.
Blanchard and his wife Nancy live in Marshall and are the parents of two children, daughter, Jessica, and son, Joe.