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Arizona baseball coach Jay Johnson hired away by LSU

USA Today

Arizona is in the market for another head coach after Jay Johnson was hired by LSU to coach its baseball program on Wednesday, according to D1Baseball’s Kendall Rogers.

Rogers also tweeted that Arizona athletic Dave Heeke “made a VERY strong commitment and push to keep Jay Johnson in Tucson, but LSU is LSU. Heeke will hire a very strong successor with his commitment to college baseball.”

Johnson, 44, went 208-114 in six seasons with the Wildcats, leading them to a pair of College World Series appearances. The 2021 UA team went 45-18 and was Pac-12 champions, the program’s first outright conference title since 1992, before reaching the CWS and going 0-2.

Arizona played in the CWS championship series in 2016, Johnson’s first season, falling in three games to Coastal Carolina. The Wildcats made three NCAA tournament appearances in Johnson’s five full seasons.

At LSU he will succeed Paul Mainieri, who retired after 15 seasons with the Tigers during which he won 641 games and made five trips to Omaha, winning the 2009 national title. His 2021 team upset Oregon in the regionals before losing in two games to Tennessee in the Super Regionals.

Johnson’s departure marks the sixth head coaching hire Arizona has had to make since December along with new hires in football, men’s basketball, soccer, softball and cross country. He joins former soccer coach Tony Amato (now at Florida) as the only UA coaches to leave for another school since Larry Smith took the USC football job in 1987.

Whoever Arizona hires to replace Johnson will inherit a team that is set to return a slew of young talent, including Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Daniel Susac, a catcher, Freshman All-American DH/3B Jacob Berry, starting pitchers Chandler Murphy and TJ Nichols and relievers Riley Cooper and Dawson Netz.

A logical candidate would be pitching coach Nate Yeskie, whose work with Arizona’s arms since being hired two years ago led to major improvements. However, Rogers has reported that Yeskie is likely to become Texas A&M’s pitching coach.