Texas A&M University-Kingsville Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Campus Recreation D. Scott Gines Ed.D. named Craig Nicholson the new head coach of the Javelina softball program Friday afternoon. A veteran collegiate coach, Nicholson brings a 1,046-286-1 record to Kingsville in his 20 seasons as a head coach.
Nicholson spent two seasons at Arizona State University (2014-15), compiling an 82-34-1 mark and back-to-back postseason appearances. The 2015 season saw Nicholson lead the Sun Devils to a postseason berth despite being forced to rely on two true freshmen pitchers to carry the team. The Sun Devils compiled a 36-22 overall record and were 12-11 in conference play, good for fourth overall in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils advanced to the Baton Rouge Regional and were two outs away from a super-regional appearance after having the eventual College World Series participant LSU Tigers on the ropes in a winner-take-all finale before falling in extra innings.
"First off, I want to thank President Tallant and D. Scott Gines for this opportunity," said Nicholson. "I am very excited to be the next leader of the Javelina softball program. The success of the Lone Star conference in softball makes this a challenging, yet unique endeavor that I, along with my family, very much look forward to. During the process, the one thing that stood out to me was the quality of people both inside and outside of the athletic department and the Kingsville community. We look forward to being a part of the South Texas community and making everyone associated with Javelina softball proud."
"Earning 1,000 wins and four national championships in the first twenty years of any coaching career is rare and exceptional," said Gines. "Coach Nicholson's career reflects the unique leadership ability to revive programs and achieve greatness, and he knows how to take the reins of successful programs and lead them to and through successful post-season runs."
Under Nicholson, the Sun Devils saw Amber Freeman earn First Team All-America accolades while also being named an Academic All-American and the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year. As a senior, Freeman bat .436 on the year with 15 home runs and 51 RBI. She was part of a potent 1-2 punch that also included Haley Steele, who finished with 69 RBI, the third most in single season program history.
ASU saw seven players earn Pac-12 All-Conference honors: Freeman and Steele on the first team, Bethany Kemp and Chelsea Gonzales on the second team and Nikki Girard, Breanna Macha and Sierra Rodriguez earning honorable mentions). Macha and true freshman pitcher Dale Ryndak were each named to the All-Freshman team while Gonzales, Girard, Sashel Palacios and Jenn Soria earned All-Pac-12 Defensive team honors.
Freeman also earned NFCA All-West Region first team accolades while Steele earned a second team nod and Kemp, Palacios and Macha were on the third team.
In his first season as the head coach at Arizona State, Nicholson led the Sun Devils to an impressive 46-12-1 record and a postseason berth. ASU was one of sixteen teams selected to host an NCAA Regional earning the No. 9 national seed. Nicholson guided ASU to a third-place finish in his inaugural season in the Pac-12. Despite it being just his first season, Nicholson led ASU to victories over powerhouse programs Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, Washington and UCLA. Under his tutelage, two Sun Devils, Freeman and Dallas Escobedo, were named NFCA Second Team All-Americans. In Nicholson's new offensive system, Freeman put up career numbers, batting.406 with 11 home runs on her way to a First Team All-Pac 12 season. In her final season for ASU, Escobedo, who also was named to the All-Pac 12 First Team, was dominant in the circle, winning 24 games and posting a 1.95 ERA with 336 strikeouts in just over 233 innings.
Nicholson's offensive approach featured the Sun Devil's bat .322 as a team, while limiting opponents to a .206 BA. Off the field, 10 student-athletes received Pac-12 All-Academic Honors.
"Craig is extremely adept in developing high-powered offenses that enjoy playing fast and aggressive, and he also demonstrates great skill in his pitch-calling and handling pitching staffs. Past recruiting, player development, and championship successes are all barometers of good coaching leadership, and we welcome, Craig, April, and the Nicholson family to what is already a talented, highly committed group of Javelina coaches."
Nicholson was the head coach at Ball State for the for seven seasons where he amassed a 241-162 record with the Cardinals. On top of coaching at Ball State, Nicholson was the associate head coach for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) in 2008 and helped the team to a NPF title.
The fastest coach in program history to pass the 100 and 200-win marks, Nicholson was instrumental in Ball State capturing three Mid-American Conference (MAC) regular season championships (2009, 2010, 2012), a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and the program's first All-American. Offensive minded, Nicholson saw much growth in the Ball State program under his tutelage.
In 2013, Ball State finished its season in the MAC Tournament with a 37-17 overall record and 18-3 in conference for its fourth league title in the last five years and a MAC Coach of the Year accolade for Nicholson. Nicholson saw the program earn its first All-American, with a third team selection in the two-time MAC Player of the Year, Jennifer Gilbert.
Nicholson spent 11 years at Central Arizona, where his coaching record was 723-90. He led CAC to four National Junior College Athletic Association National Championships (1997, 1999, 2003, 2005), seven conference championships and eight regional titles. In that time, he was named Coach of the Year four times and the NFCA Junior College Coach of the Year on three occasions.
In addition to his coaching duties at CAC, Nicholson was a professor of sport and fitness. He is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada where he earned his bachelor's degree in physical education. He earned his master's in sport science from the United States Sports Academy in Mobile, Ala. Nicholson is married to April and they have four children; Cade, Avery, Payton and Colby.
Year School Overall Conference Highlight
2015 Arizona State 36-22 12-11 NCAA Tournament
2014 Arizona State 46-12-1 15-7-1 NCAA Tournament
2013 Ball State 37-17 18-3 MAC Champions
2012 Ball State 40-15 17-3 MAC Champions
2011 Ball State 34-24 13-8
2010 Ball State 43-16 17-5 MAC Champions/NCAA Tournament
2009 Ball State 29-24 18-3 MAC Champions
2008 Ball State 36-32 9-11
2007 Ball State 22-34 8-14
1996-2006 Central Arizona 723-90 (11 Seasons) 4 NJCAA National Championships
7 Conference Championships
8 Regional Titles
4-Time Coach of the Year
3-Time NFCA JC Coach of the Year
Total 20 seasons 1046-286-1 (.785) 127-65-1 (.658) 2 NCAA Tournament Appearances
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