While one door closes for an Elizabethtown Area High School head coach, another one opens.
At the school board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26, the school district approved two coaching decisions, promoting Jordan Higgins to head coach of the baseball team, while relieving Brian Ressler of his duties as head coach for girls soccer after two seasons.
Per district policy, athletic director Bill Templin declined to comment on the decision to let go of Ressler, other than to confirm that he was no longer employed by the district. Players and parents were informed of the move via email on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Ressler, who had also served as the head coach for junior high girls basketball, did not respond to request for comment from the Advocate at press time.
After a 3-14-1 record in his first year as head coach, Ressler helped turn Elizabethtown around in his second season. The Lady Bears finished 9-7-1 in the regular season, enough to secure the last spot in the Class 4A playoffs for District 3. They lost to top seed and eventual runner-up Cumberland Valley in the first round. While the team will be losing five starters to graduation, it is set to see a large number of rotation players return in 2020.
Meanwhile, Higgins will be taking over the helm for baseball from Herb Miller, who stepped down in October after one season as head coach and over a decade as an assistant to attend to family matters. Higgins, a teacher at Elizabethtown Area High School, originally joined the Bears’ staff as an assistant in 2018, Templin’s last season as head coach before being promoted to athletic director.
“I love the game of baseball and I love teaching it to young people,” Higgins said. “I love the strategy and really enjoy the planning it takes to run a program. I have greatly enjoyed my first two years on the coaching staff here, but when it opened up, I felt it was worth taking my shot. It is truly an honor to be taking on this new role.”
“Jordan has been an integral part of our program for the last two years,” Templin said. “He’s worked hard to connect and build relationships with our players. He has experience as a head coach, and I’m looking forward to seeing him continue to grow our program.”
“He’s an old school coach in a young body,” Miller said. “He has that youthful energy, but he also has the details of the game in mind. He’s not so worried about launch angles and stuff like that. He’s worried about hitting line drives in the gap, laying down bunts, getting your feet right when you’re fielding the ball, having good technique, what you have. He’s got that enthusiasm that’s needed when you’re coaching kids.”
After graduating from Fannett Metal in 2010, Higgins played baseball for four years at Lebanon Valley College, appearing in a grand total of 119 games at catcher and designated hitter, including 114 starts. A team captain during his final two seasons, he finished his career with 95 hits, 51 RBIs and 43 runs, earning first-team All-Commonwealth and second-team All-ECAC All-Star nods in his senior year.
Higgins was hired as a teacher at Columbia Borough School District following his graduation from LVC, also getting hired as an assistant for the Crimson Tide baseball team at the same time. He was promoted to head coach in 2016, serving for two seasons and leading the Tide to back-to-back 4-15 records, leaving to teach at Elizabethtown afterward. Higgins then spent two seasons under Templin and Miller.
“I have to start by saying that both Bill and Herb are first-class in my book,” he said. “They are just all-around genuine guys, and I cannot thank them enough for the opportunity to be involved in the Elizabethtown program. While coaching under Bill Templin, I was always amazed at how poised he was in some of the most intense moments. I admired his ability to remain calm and to plan ahead as a game would unfold. Last season, Herb really talked a lot on pitching, and I always tried to listen to his input on that topic specifically. It was always about so much more than baseball, and I think that’s something that will serve me as I take this next step.”
The Bears went 5-15 in Miller’s lone season as head coach, struggling to stay consistent at the plate. They lost eight seniors to graduation at the end of last year and are set to have just two ahead of the upcoming campaign. One thing on Higgins’ side is high underclassmen numbers; Elizabethtown’s sophomore and freshman classes had 12 players each in 2019, and most of them are expected to be back this time around. While just one (now-junior Jake Black) was a regular starter, there will be plenty of options for the next couple of years. With any luck, the Bears will be able to begin anew and return to competitive play
“I think they’ll do very well,” Miller said. “The kids will buy into what he’s doing. They like him and they enjoy having him around. He won’t have a problem fitting in at all. It’s just a matter of putting them out there and letting them go off. He’ll take care of business. It’s tough in your first year for any coach, but I think he’s gonna be around for a while. He’ll get some good people around him. and everything will fall into place eventually.”
“Over the next couple of years, I see a lot of growth,” Higgins said. “I am really hoping to get our strength and conditioning programs established, and hope to create a culture that pushes student-athletes to be their best both on and off the field. I am excited to work with our youth programs to get things aligned and to provide them with support. There is a lot of talent in Elizabethtown, and I think we have an opportunity to compete in our section and league for years to come. I certainly want to honor the players and coaches of years past by keeping some traditions, but I also fully intend to put my own touch on what it means to be a baseball player at Elizabethtown High School. There is a great foundation to build from here, and I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and get after it with my guys for the upcoming season.”