Johnson confirms first hiring with Jason Kelly – a former National Assistant Coach of Year – joining staff as pitching coach

First-year LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson has hired former Arizona State pitching coach Jason Kelly in that same role for the Tigers. Photo courtesy of Arizona State athletics.

New LSU head baseball coach Jay Johnson confirmed a report that he’s hired Jason Kelly as his pitching coach.

Johnson told the Baton Rouge Advocate that reports from D1 Baseball of Kelly’s hiring was accurate, becoming the first addition to his staff after being named head coach at LSU on June 27.

“What makes him so good is that he has a complete skill set,” Johnson said of Kelly on Wednesday’s edition of the Jordy Culotta Show.

Kelly was set to move into his third season at Arizona State and serve as pitching coach and was scheduled to add the title of recruiting coordinator for the upcoming 2022 season.

However, after being retained by Arizona State’s first-year coach Willie Bloomquist, the Arizona Republic reported July 2 that Bloomquist fired Kelly after he asked to interview for the vacant pitching coach’s position with Johnson at LSU.

Kelly replaces Alan Dunn who didn’t return after former coach Paul Mainieri announced his retirement.

“We need to get LSU up into the Tier 1 of SEC programs,” Johnson said, “and the only way we’re going to get there is to pitch at a high level.”?

Kelly joined the ASU coaching staff where he was hired by Tracy Smith. The Sun Devils, which won 11 of 15 weekend series, lost three pitchers from their projected starting rotation and a closer and wound up with a team earned average of 5.28 with a staff short on experience and depth. They still reached a NCAA regional with a 33-22 record after finishing fifth in the Pac-12 when Smith was fired following his seventh season in Tempe.

ASU’s staff fashioned a 3.56 ERA with 178 strikeouts and just 67 walks and four pitchers had sub-4.00 ERAs in the COVID-shortened season that included 17 games being played.

D1 Baseball named Kelly its National Assistant Coach of the Year following the 2018 season where the Huskies had made their third postseason appearance which included a trip to the College World Series. He spent a total of seven years with the Huskies where he earned a reputation among the nation’s top recruiters.

Kelly tutored 15 pitchers while at Washington that went on to be selected in the Major League Draft – seven of which were drafted in the top 15 rounds. He was promoted to Associate Head Coach with the Huskies in 2014.

Kelly, who spent the 2004 season at his alma mater Cal Poly working in baseball operations, joined the Mustangs’ staff in 2007 and spent the next six seasons as pitching coach. He helped put together a staff in 2011 that enjoyed a 3.60 ERA, the best in the school’s 17-year existence to that point.

Johnson said his second opening for an assistant coach will focus on recruiting, but will also serve as third base coach and work with the infield.

“We want to be able to recruit kids from across the entire United States,” he said. “The kids from Louisiana, Texas and the southeast. We will have the West covered. It is not just a job a recruiting job, but you also have to be good evaluator. I like the talent on this team, but you also have to be a good evaluator. We’re going to have someone who complements the rest of the staff and provides value. We want guys that can possibly impact our players.”

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