When Chip Hale was putting together this first coaching staff at Arizona, he brought in his own hitting coach and recruiting coordinator but opted to retain Dave Lawn and give him the pitching coach job. Entering his third season, Hale’s staff is all his.
The Wildcats officially announced the hiring of Kevin Vance as pitching coach on Monday, hiring him from Boston College where he’d been the past two seasons.
Vance, 32, has been coaching in college since 2017, after spending six seasons in professional baseball. That includes the 2015 season in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league system, which is where he crossed paths with Hale, who managed the Dbacks in 2015-16.
At Boston College, Vance put together a pitching staff that was integral to the Eagles reaching the NCAA Tournament this past season. BC won 37 games, tied for most since in program history, and the team ERA ranked just outside the top 100 nationally.
“We are thrilled to add a proven winner in coach Vance to our program,” Hale said in a news release. “Kevin has built pitching staffs with defined identities and found success at every step on his coaching journey. He consistently displays an elite capacity to leverage analytics to maximize each of his pitcher’s abilities. Rounding out our staff with a tough worker and tireless recruiter completes this program and sets us up for immediate and long-term success.”
Vance replaces Lawn, who had been with Arizona since 2016. Lawn was pitching coach under Jay Johnson from 2016-19, then served as defensive coordinators in 2020-21 before moving back into the pitching coach job (with the added title of associate head coach) in 2022-23.
Nichols enters NCAA transfer portal
TJ Nichols was Arizona’s Opening Night starting pitcher in February, holding preseason No. 2 Tennessee to one run on three hits over six innings. Now he’s in the NCAA transfer portal following a 2023 season that went terribly wrong for the junior right-hander.
The 6-foot-5 Nichols was pulled from the starting rotation in late March, relegated to mop-up relief duty down the stretch, and finished with a 3-5 record and 8.67 ERA in 57.2 innings. His final performance of the season, against TCU in the NCAA Tournament, saw him allow three runs in two innings of relief in that 12-4 loss to the Horned Frogs.
There’s a good chance Nichols doesn’t end up at another school, though. That’s because, despite his poor 2023, he’s still on MLB Draft boards because of his frame and a fastball that touches the upper 90s. Baseball America has him as the No. 149 prospect in July’s draft, which would put him in line to get taken in the first five rounds.
For the time being, though, Nichols becomes the ninth UA player in the portal, though the first who saw significant time with the Wildcats in 2023.