Winthrop's Tom Riginos and High Point's Craig Cozart have battled each other as assistant baseball coaches on fields from Florida to the Carolinas and off the field going head-to-head recruiting the Southeast's best talent.
When the two meet tonight in High Point it will be the first time as head coaches.
"We are good friends. We've known each other for a long time. There's a lot of respect. It's just really a competitive relationship," Riginos said of Cozart.
Riginos, in his first year as Winthrop's head coach, first met Cozart in Florida. Riginos was an assistant at Stetson, Cozart was a pitcher at Central Florida from 1993-96 and then went right to coaching at UCF. Riginos started coaching at Stetson in 1993.
The schools, just 40 minutes apart, were part of what was then the Trans-American Conference. Along with Florida Atlantic, the schools were fierce rivals. It wasn't uncommon for all three to get NCAA tournament bids.
Cozart, in his third season at High Point, said he saw Riginos a lot on the road on recruiting trips. Cozart said he learned a lot from Riginos.
"He is so thorough in his evaluation of players," Cozart said. "Obviously, I have a lot of respect for him."
The two have faced each other a few times in the recent past. Riginos was an assistant at Clemson from 2002 until being hired at Winthrop in August. The Tigers played at UCF a handful of times.
With all that history, Riginos has a pretty good feel for the team Cozart is building.
"High Point will be a very well coached team," he said. "His pitchers will be aggressive with the fastball. Cody Allen (HPU's starting pitcher today) is a typical Craig Cozart type of pitcher. He commands his fastball. He has a lot of strikeouts, and he's from right there from Orlando."
High Point (15-12, 3-3 Big South) will follow with right-handers Jared Avidon and Mike Caldwell on Saturday and Sunday.
"Yeah, over the years I've liked the guys that are physical, that can beat you with power breaking pitches," Cozart said. "They can get it done with solid velocity, too. But that's what every college coach is looking for."
Winthrop (11-13, 3-3) will go with Tyler Mizenko today. Robert Lake, the reigning Big South Pitcher of the Week, will throw on Saturday. Riginos is undecided on Sunday's starter. Matteo D'Angelo has been the Sunday starter this season.
Seven teams enter this weekend tied for second place in the conference standings adding more importance to these games.
"You always want a series win because there is so much parity in this conference," Riginos said. "I would never say, this early, that this is a must-win. But I do want to keep the momentum going from Tuesday's win."
Winthrop blanked Furman, 10-0, behind the pitching of Matt Pierpont, Wade Newman and Justin Hopper.
High Point lost 11-0 at Western Carolina on Tuesday. After an 0-5 start to the season the Panthers have rebounded to win 15 of their last 20 games.
"I like where we are. It's been a nice progression," Cozart said. "This series has a little more emphasis with seven teams tied up. You can't afford to lose a series right now. You've got to sort of stay ahead of your competition. The next two, three weeks are going to filter out the league."