Hired June 30, 2013, Craig Nicholson enters his second season with the Sun Devils and 21st season as a head coach overall. Nicholson is 82-34-1 thus far with the Sun Devils and has led the team to consecutive postseason appearances. He holds a 1046-286-1 career record as a head coach in his 20 seasons.
The 2014 season saw Nicholson lead the Sun Devils to the postseason 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, which was good for fourth overall in the competitive Pac-12. The Sun Devils advanced to the Baton Rouge Regional and were two outs away from a super regional appearance after having the sixth-seeded LSU Tigers on the ropes in a winner-take-all finale before falling in extra innings. The Tigers would advance to the College World Series.
Under Nicholson, the Sun Devils saw Amber Freeman assert herself as one of the all-time great Sun Devils as she earned First Team All-America accolades while also being named an Academic All-American and the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Freeman finished her time at ASU with a .389 career batting average, good for third in ASU’s all-time record book. She was also fourth in ASU history with 56 career home runs, fifth with 197 RBI, fourth with 267 total hits and tied for fifth with 46 doubles.
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 third in her career in RBI (209), fifth in homers (48), tied for 10th in hits (234) and fourth in doubles (49). Steele's 69 RBI last season were the third-most for a single season in 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 fellow 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.
Macha became a household name in the Baton Rouge Regional, pitching nearly 400 pitches over three days where she pitched 28 of 30 possible innings. All told, Macha threw 385 pitches over three days and finished with a 1.75 ERA with 15 strikeouts to just four walks and no home runs allowed.
In his first season as the head coach at Arizona State, Coach Nicholson led the Sun Devils to an impressive 46-12-1 record and another berth in the postseason. 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 first year in the historically tough Pac-12 conference. Despite it being just his first season, Nicholson led ASU to victories over powerhouse programs such as Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, Washington and UCLA. Under his tutelage, two Sun Devils, Amber Freeman and Dallas Escobedo, were named NFCA Second Team All-Americans. In Nicholson’s new offensive system, Amber Freeman put up monster numbers batting a career best .406 with 11 home runs on her way to a First Team All-Pac 12 season. In her final season of a memorable ASU career, Dallas Escobedo, who also was named to the All-Pac 12 First Team, was dominant winning 24 games and posting a 1.95 ERA with 336 strikeouts in just over 233 innings.
Nicholson's high powered offensive approach paid dividends as the Sun Devil's as a team batted .322 on the year while allowing opponents to hit a miniscule .206. ASU was also more aggressive on the base paths, increasing both their stolen bases and attempts from the previous year. Nicholson's players also got it done off the field, with 10 student-athletes receiving Pac-12 All-Academic Honors.
The incoming recruiting class has brought excitement to the future of the program with two Gatorade State Player of the Year award winners joining the Sun Devils for the upcoming season. Breanna Macha and Dale Ryndak look to replenish a pitching staff that lost several to graduation. The recruiting class and young players have ASU fans looking forward to what the future of the program holds.
Nicholson was the head coach at Ball State for the for seven seasons where he amassed a 241-162 record with the Cardinals. Nicholson replaced Clint Myers, who accepted a similar position at Auburn on June 14. 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.
A similar stop along the way to ASU as former head coach Clint Myers, Nicholson spent 11 years at Central Arizona, one of which with Myers, 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.
Also joining Nicholson in the Sun Devil family are his wife April and his children Cade, Avery, Payton and Colby.
- Guided ASU to a third place finish in his first year in the historically tough Pac-12 conference and a fourth place finish and an NCAA tournament berth with two true freshmen pitchers in year two.
- Posted series victories over a top-10 UCLA squad at home and a top-15 Arizona team on the road in his second year while adding victories over Top-10 programs from LSU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Michigan.
- Sun Devil's as a team batted .322 on the year in Nicholson's opening season and .314 in year two while several players notched career highs in the major hiting categories.
- Has coached student-athletes that have combined for 17 Pac-12 All-Academic Honors, including Academic All-American and Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Amber Freeman.
- Under his tutelage, two Sun Devils, Amber Freeman and Dallas Escobedo, were named NFCA Second Team All-Americans. Freeman would be named a First Team All-American as a senior under Nicholson.
- Prior to his arrival at BSU, single-season high in homers was 18. BSU had 70 in 2012.
- Cardinals were only team in the nation in 2012 to rank in the top 10 nationally in batting average (.318, 8th), slugging percentage (.543, 6th), runs scored (6.69/game, 5th) and home runs (1.27/game, 10th).
- BSU program record in 2008 with 151 stolen bases.
- Coached the 2009, 2010 and 2012 MAC Players of the Year
- In 2009 was MAC Coach of the Year and also had the Pitcher of the Year
- 2013 MAC Coach of the Year
- At BSU, had 31 All-MAC honorees, 13 first-team, 11 second-team and seven all-freshmen
COACH NICHOLSON'S YEAR-BY-YEAR DIVISION I RECORDS
|2015||Arizona State||36-22||12-11||NCAA Tourament|
|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
|2010||Ball State||43-16||17-5||MAC Champions/NCAA Tournament|
|2009||Ball State||29-24||18-3||MAC Champions|
|1996-2006||Central Arizona||723-90 (11 Seasons)||
4 NJCAA National Championships
|Total||20 seasons||1046-286-1 (.785)||127-65-1 (.658)||2 NCAA Tournament Appearances|