After thriving in his duties as a volunteer assistant coach for three seasons, Kory Winter took over hitting and recruiting as a full-time assistant coach beginning with the 2019 campaign.
Winter was in his third season as hitting coach as Valpo enjoyed its best league-only winning percentage since joining the prestigious Missouri Valley Conference in 2021. A young team that received 57.8 percent of its at-bats from freshmen and 68.1 percent of its at-bats from freshmen or sophomores won two games in the MVC Tournament for the first time since joining the league. Winter’s offense featured MVC Freshman of the Year Kaleb Hannahs, who also garnered All-MVC Second Team and Freshman All-American honors. Compared to the most recently completed season of 2019, the team improved its batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and fielding percentage in addition to increasing its number of home runs, doubles, hits and runs scored in 2021. The squad stole 33 bases, its highest total since 2017.
Winter, who also serves as Valpo’s outfield instructor, helped the team finish with a .969 fielding percentage in 2021, the third-best in program history. The team’s top three fielding percentages of all-time have all come since his arrival on staff in 2016.
Winter’s offense had a banner day on May 1, 2021, when Valpo had seven doubles and 42 total bases in a single game vs. Illinois State, the most by any MVC team all season in both categories. That game saw the two teams combine for the most runs scored (30), hits (35), doubles (9) and home runs (9) in any MVC game all season. The 17 runs marked the program’s highest total since 2018, 18 hits represented its highest total since 2018 and 42 total bases was the team’s top output since April 4, 2006. Valpo drilled five home runs in a game for the first time since 2006.
Winter aided the development of several offensive standouts over the course of their careers, including outfielder Riley Dent, who wrapped up his five-year tenure with 83 career bases on balls, tied for 10th in program history. Valpo had three sets of back-to-back jacks during the 2021 season and had two walk-off wins in the same day in a doubleheader sweep of SIU on April 23, including a walk-off home run by Jonathan Temple. In addition to Hannah’s aforementioned honors, several other Valpo position players received recognition in 2021, including All-MVC Honorable Mention choice Brady Renfro and MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team selection Steven Fitzsimmons.
During his first season as Valpo’s hitting coach, Winter aided several Valpo players in their development. Senior Chase Dawson earned All-Missouri Valley Conference Second Team honors by posting the best offensive season of his accomplished collegiate career, hitting .324 after entering the year with a career batting average of .261. Another player who made a big jump under Winter was Riley Dent, who batted .290 on his way to All-MVC Honorable Mention recognition after entering the year with a .207 career average through his first two seasons. Steven Fitzsimmons also made a jump as a junior, going from a career .195 hitter with one double to hitting .268 with nine doubles in 2019. Senior Blake Billinger batted .306 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs in Winter’s first season as hitting coach, earning Google Cloud Academic All-District honors as selected by CoSIDA in addition to garnering a place on the All-MVC Second Team.
Winter was on staff in 2016 as Valpo enjoyed the seventh 30-win season in program history. He was also a part of the department’s first season in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2018, a year that featured an upset conference tournament win over Dallas Baptist, a team that went on to receive an at-large NCAA Regional berth. Valpo totaled four wins against teams that finished the season in the Top 50 nationally in RPI (DBU twice, Oklahoma and Illinois). The Fighting Illini were ranked 25th nationally at the time of Valpo’s victory in Champaign.
Valpo set a program record for fielding percentage for the second consecutive season in 2018, finishing at .973. In addition, the team ranked in the Top 5 in program history in doubles, home runs and walks.
Winter joined Valpo’s staff for the 2016 season after serving as an assistant coach at Shippensburg University in 2015. He played collegiately at Wittenberg University, where he graduated in 2010 with a degree in English and education. Winter’s coaching career also includes a stint at Muskingum University, where he was the lead assistant and recruiting coordinator from 2012-2014.
Winter, who earned his master’s in education from Muskingum, taught and coached at the high school level in Columbus, Ohio in 2011-2012.