Photo by Barry BurlesonBruce Branch
Branch new MA baseball coach
Bruce Branch is ready to put his stamp on the Marshall Academy baseball program.
“We will hang our hat on trying to outwork everybody else,” he said. “We want to be fundamentally sound and do all the little things that will give us the edge.”
Branch was recently named the new head coach of the Patriots after serving in the same capacity one year at Silliman Institute in Clinton, La., and nine years at Heritage Academy in Columbus. This past season Silliman finished 20-10 and was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
“I want to get everybody on board with the brand of baseball we want to play, and I expect us to be successful,” he said.
Branch said he is very familiar with the rich tradition of MA baseball. The Patriots won 11 straight district championships before failing to make the playoffs this past season. But Marshall has never won a state championship in baseball.
“I’ve followed Marshall,” he said. “I know baseball has been strong here, and I know there’s a lot of potential year in and year out.
“I’m ready to hit the ground running. I want to create a buzz about the good things we’re doing, and I want that to be a draw for us.”
Branch and Barrett Donahoe, headmaster at Marshall Academy, worked together four years at Heritage. Donahoe was head football coach and athletic director.
“That’s where our partnership started, and we realized we were good together,” he said. “He and I have a lot of the same ideas – we think outside the box.
“He’s a good guy to work for and a good guy to have on your team.
“I wanted to come here and work with him. That’s the kind of relationship we have; that’s how much respect I have for him and the job he does.”
Donahoe said Branch is a “phenomenal coach” who is organized and knows how to build and maintain a program.
“That helps him stand apart,” Donahoe said. “And discipline is a big part of how he operates.
“I’m very excited to have him on campus. He brings so many good qualities to our student athletes.”
The ultimate goal in high school coaching is always a state crown, Branch said.
“But first and foremost we want to win district championships,” he said. “Then once you get in the playoffs, anybody can make noise.
“It’s a grind – a lot of hard work. Nothing is going to be given to us. We have to work for all we get.”
Branch, 35, is a graduate of New Hope High School in Columbus. He also played baseball two years at East Mississippi Community College.
He said his high school baseball coach, Stacy Hester, motivated him to follow in the same career field.
“He took me under his wing,” he said. “I looked up to him and admired him – the way he cut the grass and kept the field looking sharp and the way he handled us as players. I wanted to be like that guy.”
Branch said that’s how he developed not just a love for baseball, but a love for molding young men.
“It’s more about life than it is baseball,” he said.
He hopes to implement a summer baseball schedule.
“Getting here in May, I’m not sure how much of that we will get done,” Branch said. “I know it can be an important time for me to evaluate players and for them to get to know me and establish relationships.”
Branch’s other responsibilities will include assistant football coach and head of buildings and grounds.
He and his wife, Abby, have two children, a son Britton, 3, and a daughter Janie, 7 months. His wife is a speech therapist and will be director of rehab at Great Oaks in Byhalia.
The family will soon be relocating to the Holly Springs community.