RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Commonwealth University Head Baseball Coach Paul Keyes announced Wednesday that Jeff Palumbo has been named assistant coach. Palumbo, who joins the Rams after spending the previous three seasons at the University of Central Florida, will focus primarily on fielding and hitting instruction while assisting in the program's recruiting efforts.
Last season, Palumbo helped guide UCF to a 39-23 record – its best since 2005 – and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in seven years with a No. 2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional. The Knights also posted their best Conference USA finish (fourth) since joining the league in 2006.
"We are very excited to welcome Jeff as a member of our baseball program," said Keyes. "He's done an outstanding job during his six years as an assistant and he's proven to be one of the game's bright young coaches. He knows the league well having played and coached at George Mason in the early 2000's, and he'll be a great addition to our program."
Regarded as one of the top fielding coaches in the country, Palumbo's 2011 UCF squad shattered the school's single-season record with a .978 fielding percentage, committing only 53 errors in 62 games. Behind strong defense, including a stretch of eight-straight games without recording an error, the Knights posted two wins each over Florida, Stetson and Rice, in addition to victories against Florida State and Alabama.
Palumbo has been outstanding on the recruiting trail during his time as an assistant coach. Under the direction of first-year skipper Terry Rooney in 2009, Palumbo and the Knights put together Collegiate Baseball Newspaper 's fourth-ranked recruiting class and followed with the nation's 20th-best class heading into the 2011 season. Those rankings were the highest-ever in program history.
The staff's recruiting efforts quickly paid off as the 2010 squad won 33 games despite being the only team in the country to have five freshmen make at least 35 starts, including three infielders. That same season, Palumbo's infield turned a school-record 61 double plays, ranking among the nation's top 10 in that category. Not only did the Knights possess solid defense, but they also turned heads at the plate setting school and Conference USA marks with a .343 batting average and .435 on-base percentage. Further, UCF set program records with 78 homers and a .538 slugging percentage.
During his time with the Knights, Palumbo coached two Louisville Slugger All-Americans, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, a pair of Freshman All-Americans, a Conference USA Freshman of the Year and two first team all-conference honorees.
A native of Cheverly, Md., Palumbo is no stranger to the Colonial Athletic Association having played at George Mason from 2001-04 before serving as an assistant coach with the Patriots from 2006-08.
He spent three seasons as the program's recruiting coordinator and hitting coach, and oversaw a defense that finished with a .970 fielding percentage – second in the league – during his final season in 2008, while posting a third-place conference finish, a .311 team batting average and 63 home runs.
During his time at George Mason, Palumbo helped guide four players into the professional ranks including three-time all-conference honoree and ABCA All-East Region selection Scott Krieger, as well as Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Justin Bour.
A two-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year, Palumbo finished his career as the Patriots all-time leader in hits (283), at-bats (865), games played (218) and games started (217), while ranking among the top 10 in runs, stolen bases, total bases, RBI and walks. During his senior campaign, he led the nation in runs scored per game (1.4), hit a career-best .402 and led the Patriots to an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament – the program's first appearance since 1993. Palumbo was selected in the15th-round round by the San Francisco Giants in the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft and was later named a Northwest League All-Star with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
Palumbo was part of the CAA's Silver Anniversary team in 2010.