Nichole Willis will enter her fourth season as an assistant coach at Sacramento State in 2017, and now has nine years of coaching experience.
Willis, who played four years at Fresno State (2004-07), works with the Hornet catchers and outfielders, assists with recruiting and the pitchers, and handles team travel.
During Willis’ three-year tenure as assistant coach, the Hornets have combined for an 81-69 overall record and a 42-16 mark in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets finished second place in the league standings each of those seasons, including a half game back in 2014 and 2016, and two games back of the top spot in 2015. In addition, Sacramento State has eliminated a pair of teams from the Big Sky Tournament each of the last two years, including Southern Utah and Idaho State in 2015, and Southern Utah and Montana in 2016. The 2015 squad qualified for the Big Sky Tournament championship game, but fell to Weber State and narrowly missed out on the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals.
Also during Willis’ time with the Hornets, the team has racked up 27 all-conference selections, including a program-record 11 receiving some form of all-Big Sky recognition in 2014. Among those players was two-time Big Sky Pitcher of the Year Caitlin Brooks, who also became just the second Hornet pitcher during the program’s Div. I era (1990-pres.) to earn all-region honors on more than one occasion. Sacramento State improved as the season progressed all three years of Willis’ tenure, going 20-10 over its final 30 games last year, 7-3 over its final 10 games in 2015, and 17-8 over its final 25 games of the 2014 season.
Willis has been part of a coaching staff that has guided the Hornets to top three Div. I era single-season marks in on-base percentage (1st, .376 in 2015; 3rd, .369 in 2016), walks (1st, 150), hits (2nd, 436), batting average (2nd, .303 in 2016; T-3rd, .294 in 2015), doubles (T-2nd, 77), runs (3rd, 240) and RBIs (3rd, 218). In addition, the 2016 squad struck out just 122 times all season (once every 11.1 at-bats), easily the best marks in school history.
In the summer of 2014, Willis was one of 20 players selected to compete for the USA Women’s Baseball National Team. As one of the team’s two primary catchers, Willis won a silver medal with the squad at the WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup in Miyazaki, Japan.
Prior to Sacramento State, Willis spent three seasons (2011-13) as an assistant coach at UC San Diego. With the Tritons, she helped coach the team to a combined 123-61 overall record, including a 2011 national championship and a 2012 national runner-up finish.
In fact, UC San Diego won a school-record 45 games in 2011 and 2012, and Willis was part of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II National Coaching Staff of the Year in 2011, and the NFCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year in 2012.
Prior to UC San Diego, Willis was a varsity assistant coach for Clovis High School (2010) and an assistant with the Fresno Force U18 Gold club team (2007-08) that made back-to-back appearances at Nationals.
The Clovis, Calif., native was a four-year starting catcher at Fresno State (2004-07) where she caught Olympians Jamie Southern and Robin Mackin. A 2007 Easton first team All-American, two-time all-West Region, three-time first team all-Western Athletic Conference, three-time preseason all-WAC, and 2004 WAC Freshman of the Year, Willis helped Fresno State to four straight NCAA Regional appearances and a combined 175-69 overall record and 64-11 conference mark.
A career .299 hitter, she had 39 doubles, 23 home runs and 127 RBIs in 725 at-bats during her four seasons with the Bulldogs. Defensively, she threw out 54.1 percent of would-be base stealers (59-for-109).
Willis graduated from Fresno State with a kinesiology degree in 2008.