ASU picks another CAC coach to run its softball program

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/07/asu-picks-another-cac-coach-to-run-its-softball-program/' addthis:title='ASU picks another CAC coach to run its softball program'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>The road to a softball head-coaching job at Arizona State apparently runs through Coolidge. To be more specific, through Central Arizona College, a JUCO powerhouse in softball that is situated […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/07/asu-picks-another-cac-coach-to-run-its-softball-program/' addthis:title='ASU picks another CAC coach to run its softball program'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

The road to a softball head-coaching job at Arizona State apparently runs through Coolidge.

To be more specific, through Central Arizona College, a JUCO powerhouse in softball that is situated in the middle of the desert on the outskirts of the small central-Arizona community of Coolidge, nestled midway between Phoenix and Tucson.

That’s where ASU found Clint Myers, who brought home two national titles in his eight years in Tempe.  When Myers left the program last month to accept the head-coaching job at Auburn he vacated the seat occupied by just two other head coaches in the program’s history, Mary Littlewood and Linda Wells, who was the face of ASU softball for 16 years.

ASU plucked Myers right out of Central Arizona College, where he had taken that program to national prominence.  He spent 19 years at CAC, the first eight as the softball head coach – during which time he won six national titles – and then ran the baseball program until leaving for the ASU job.

Craig Nicholson, who has just been tapped to succeed Myers at ASU, is coming from Ball State where he was the that program’s head softball coach for seven years.  But the path to Ball State went through CAC.

Actually, the career paths of both Myers and Nicholson crossed for one brief season at CAC.  Nicholson went on to spend 11 years in charge of the Vaqueros’ softball program, during which time he took the program back to the top of the national standings as he won four national championships and was named the NFCA Junior College Coach of the Year three times.

“Craig is an outstanding, hard-working young coach,” says Myers of the new hire.  “He will put every bit of effort needed to maintain the program’s success, now and in the future.”

At Ball State, Nicholson’s teams won three Mid-American Conference  (MAC) championships and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2010.  He compiled a 204-145 record with the Cardinals.

“I am excited to see what the new coach will bring to the team,” said senior pitcher Dallas Escobedo, who has carried the team to three appearances in the Women’s College World Series and pitched the Sun Devils to a national championship as a freshman.  “We need excitement, positive energy, and a great leader.  I am excited to see what he has to offer ASU softball.”

Nicholson, who at 41 is a couple decades younger than Myers, should still have lots of that positive energy left in the tank.  And he wants to expend it all in Tempe.

“This is the job you dream about,” said Nicholson at the announcement of his hire.  “This is a destination job for me.”

Actually, it would be a dream job for any coach.  Myers put the program on a high pedestal, taking it to a school-record seven World Series appearances in his eight years at the helm and brought home national titles in 2008 and 2011.

The Devils return most of their talent from a 2013 team that finished 50-12 and had 17 wins against nationally-ranked teams.  Two of the best pitchers in Division I – Escobedo (St. Mary’s High School, Phoenix) and Mackenzie Popescue (Chaparral High School, Scottsdale) – are among those returning as seniors.

While Nicholson was all about building an offensive juggernaut at Ball State, he is also credited with developing the 2009 conference Pitcher of the Year.  Escobedo and Popescue won’t be overlooked by the new coach.

Ball State was the only team in the nation in 2012 to rank in the top-10 nationally in batting average (.318), slugging percentage (.543), runs scored (6.69/game), and home runs (1.27/game).  Prior to Nicholson taking over the program, the Cardinals’ season-high for home runs was 18.  In 2012, they put 70 over the fence.

He inherits a team in Tempe that had 552 hits last season, batted .328 as a team, and parked 95 home runs.  An offensive-minded coach with weapons like those should be a match made in heaven.

But there’s a downside that comes with all that potential.  Anything less than a WCWS appearance will be a disappointment to most fans.

Oh yeah, last year’s team opened the season by winning 21 straight games to set a school record.  He’ll need to get started right away.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)