Softball Adds Proven Success Abbie Sims to Coaching Staff

June 4, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head coach Megan Smith announced the hiring of expert pitching coach and former All-American pitcher Abbie Sims to the Kansas softball staff, Monday afternoon.

A five-year pitching coach under head coach Kyla Holas at the University of Houston, Sims perfected her craft at the Conference USA perennial program, training the 2008 C-USA Pitcher of the Year in Angel Shamblin, the 2011 C-USA Newcomer of the Year in Donna Bourgeois and the 2011 NCAA leader in strikeouts per seven innings in Amanda Crabtree. Houston finished the 2011 campaign nationally ranked and only one win shy of a Women’s College World Series berth using a 1.35 team ERA – the best in the nation.

“You get excited about landing great recruits, which is always a big deal, but to me this is even more exciting,” Smith said. “It will impact every aspect of our team. Obviously, she’ll work with our pitchers and catchers, but the preparation she is going provide them with will make our entire team even more confident. I think you’re going to see a huge difference in our pitching staff.

“Abbie has proven that she can be successful at the highest level, and that’s what we need. She’s had five years of experience at Houston, going to Regionals, Super Regionals and turning quality pitchers into elite All-Americans. We’ve got some really good pitchers on our staff that are going to thrive under her leadership. We’re really excited to see her go to work.”

At Kansas, Sims will prepare and manage the Jayhawk pitching staff, lead the KU Softball pitching and catching camps as well as assist Smith and fellow assistant coach Adam Roorbach with recruiting. She replaces former assistant coach D.J. Mathis, who spent the last two seasons coaching the Jayhawk pitchers before taking a head coaching position at St. Gregory’s, an NAIA school in Shawnee, Okla., following the 2012 season.

Sims, a former All-American pitcher at NC State, fills the role nicely of fellow All-American Mathis, who threw four years at Oklahoma. As Smith’s latest hire displays the proven success the KU coaching staff possesses in both coaching and playing experience, she took time to thank Mathis for her work at Kansas.

“D.J. spent two years here and did an excellent job,” Smith said. “We really enjoyed having her and wish her well with her future coaching aspirations.”

Sims will inherit a staff that recorded its lowest ERA (3.27) since 2009, led by the work of freshman Alicia Pille. The rookie from Royse City, Texas, recorded 17 wins in 2012, tying her for third-most among KU rookies and marked the most by a KU pitcher since 2008. Additionally, she turned in eight shutouts, led the Big 12 with four saves and ranked fifth in the league with 171 strikeouts at the conclusion of the regular season. The staff’s 294 total strikeouts also checked in at fifth in the conference prior to postseason play.

“People see the strides we’re making and Abbie also sees that,” Smith said. “She sees the opportunity to come in here and make a huge impact to help get us where we want to be, which is (NCAA) Regionals every single year. She sees that as a challenge in the Big 12 and she’s ready for that challenge. With her expertise, training, what she accomplished at Houston and what she did as a player is only going to help solidify us as we move upward in the Big 12 and nationally.”

This season, Sims helped Houston to its second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance with a 35-24 overall record using a staff comprised entirely of underclassmen. As a unit, the team posted a 2.92 ERA, led by redshirt sophomore Bailey Watts, who went 16-10 with a 2.51 ERA.

Sims rebuilt quickly following a 2011 campaign, in which the UH pitching staff dominated the opposition. Aside from the nation’s best 1.35 team ERA, Crabtree led the nation in strikeouts per game (12.0) and hits allowed (2.85) as she was named to the NFCA All-Region and the C-USA Second Teams and collected C-USA Pitcher of the Week honors six times in her final season. Crabtree broke UH’s single-game strikeout record when she fanned 17 at Memphis during the Cougars’ series win over the Tigers. Bourgeois was also recognized on Second Team by C-USA as the two seniors combined to throw four no hitters. Additionally, Diedre Outon was named to the All-Freshman Team.

In 2010, Sims guided Watts to a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman Team. Watts’ 2.85 ERA in her rookie campaign placed her in the league’s top-15 to finish the season.

One of the most decorated pitchers in Houston’s history, Shamblin also threw under the direction of Sims. The ace broke the program’s single-season records including the lowest ERA (0.94) and most wins in a season (36) in 2008. She was named the 2008 C-USA Pitcher of the Year as well as the C-USA Female Athlete of the Year.

As a student-athlete, Sims became the first-ever NC State softball player to be named ACC Player of the Year in 2007. She had an impressive senior campaign as she tossed four no-hitters, including a perfect game. She owned the second-best pitching record (27-7) in the conference as well as one of the top marks in the nation to earn Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America Third Team honors.

When she graduated, Sims was one of five pitchers in ACC history to have collected 1,000 or more career strikeouts (1,091). A native of Artesia, N.M., she also saw action as an outfielder for the Wolfpack, compiling a .292 batting average with 45 hits, 25 runs scored, 11 home runs and 27 RBIs her senior year.

One of two ACC student-athletes to receive National Player of the Week recognition in 2007, Sims was tabbed by USA Softball (March 20) and Louisville Slugger/NFCA (April 22). She was also the only student-athlete named ACC Player of the Week four times in a season. In 2007, Sims made her third appearance as an All-ACC First-Team member, garnishing accolades in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Sims finished her career at NC State as the active leader in career victories among all league hurlers and fourth all-time in wins by ACC pitchers with 90. With 1,091 strikeouts, Sims placed fourth all-time among ACC pitchers. Additionally, Sims’ 102 complete games rank fifth all-time and were tops among active pitchers in 2007.

As Sims departed the Wolfpack she owned many of the program’s all-time pitching records including: lowest career ERA (1.69), lowest opponent batting average (.179), wins (90), saves (5), appearances (146), starts (121), complete games (102), games finished (25), shutouts (36), innings pitched (836.2), strikeouts (1,091) and batters faced (3,491).

Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business management, Sims played one season with the Rockford Thunder of the National Pro Fastpitch league in Rockford, Ill.