Lopez needs operations director

University of Arizona pitcher Konner Wade, right, listens as pitching coach Shaun Cole gestures while talking to him in the bullpen during practice at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Ariz, on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

When Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez rattled off his summer shopping list last month after finishing 22-33, it went something like this: a third baseman, a center fielder and two strong arms for the starting rotation.

You can add a pitching coach to the tally now.

Shaun Cole, who led the pitchers for the past five seasons under Lopez, resigned Friday to accept a position with USA Baseball. Cole will serve as the director of the 18U National Team and will relocate to North Carolina.

Cole, 35, came to Arizona in 2009 as served as the UA’s director of baseball operations. He was promoted to pitching coach in 2010 and was named the Collegiate Baseball National Pitching Coach of the Year in 2012, when he helped lead the UA to the national championship.

“It was a tough decision,” Cole said. “I’ve been here for a period of time and have really enjoyed it. I’ve recruited a handful of kids that are still on the team and will be coming in this summer and I think there is a bright future.

“But I talked to a lot of people that I trusted, including Coach Lopez, and everyone agreed it would be too tough to turn down.”

Cole, who will begin his new job Monday, was first notified of the possible opening at USA Baseball last month. He had a previous relationship with the outgoing director, who thought highly of Cole and strongly recommended him to USA Baseball.

“He contacted me a while back and said this position is going to open and I’d like you to be the guy,” Cole said. “I heard from him again after our season ended and we moved on from there.”

Cole will essentially serve as the general manager for the USA U18 National Team. Cole will be responsible for hiring national team and event coaching staffs, hosting national team trials and training, and serve as the head of the U.S. delegation at 18U international baseball events.

He will also oversee the USA Baseball 18U Tournament of Stars and the 17U Identification Series — the primary selection vehicles for the 18U team.

Cole said he likely would have accepted the position even if Arizona had a more successful 2014 season.

“To work with the best players and compete nationally, it’s tough to ignore that and say no,” Cole said.

At Arizona, Cole was identified as a big reason for Arizona’s success on the mound in 2012. He helped tutor a pitching staff led by weekend starters Kurt Heyer, Konner Wade and James Farris.

The trio combined for a 31-8 record and a 3.30 ERA. They had a remarkable 16 complete games on the season.

“Mainly what I’ll think about the most with that group is the process I saw those guys go through,” Cole said. “From losing regionals at TCU and Texas A&M to then saying, ‘No, we’re not going to lose’ and winning a national championship, those guys played with a ton of character and team chemistry.”

Cole’s staff struggled this year. UA pitchers combined for a team of ERA of 4.49, which was second to last in the Pac-12.

“There were definitely some tough moments, but nothing I would change,” Cole said.

Inside pitch

  • Play opened this week at the prestigious Cape Cod League and several Arizona players are on active rosters. They are:
  • Kevin Newman
  • (Falmouth Commodores),
  • Scott Kingery
  • and
  • Zach Gibbons
  • (Brewster Whitecaps),
  • Bobby Dalbec
  • ,
  • Nathan Bannister
  • and
  • Cody Moffett
  • (Orleans Firebirds) and
  • Willie Calhoun
  • (Wareham Gatemen).

Newman won the batting title last year with Falmouth and has already started strong this season. The shortstop went 4 for 9 in his first two games. Kingery, who played center field for Arizona this season, is expected to move to second base next year as a junior. He opened the season for Brewster at second.

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.