Posted Online: March 26, 2013, 9:46 pm

After two years away, Nichols anticipating return to Kewanee baseball dugout

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By Terry Duckett, tduckett@qconline.com

With baseball his main sport during his prep years at Macomb High School, taking a break from the game wouldn't be easy to Tyler Nichols.

But that's what the Kewanee Boilermakers' first-year head coach did the last two spring seasons. After his wife had their second childin 2011, Nichols made the decision to call timeout and stepped away from Kirk Fristad's baseball coaching staff to spend more time with his young family.

Now, Nichols is not only back in the dugout, he's the man in charge. After being tabbed as Chris Waca's replacement with the Kewanee football program, Nichols got tabbed to take over for Fristad as the Boilers' baseball coach, increasing his coaching workload significantly in a matter of weeks.

"Oh yeah, I'm really excited,'' he said of his return. "I've played baseball my entire life; it's been my lifelong passion. I was eager to get back on the diamond.''

Adding to that sense of eagerness was inheriting a team that enjoyed an upswing under Fristad last season. The Boilers finished 17-12 and contended for their first Three Rivers Conference title before settling for second place behind five-time reigning champ Morrison. Kewanee's 10-4 league mark beat out Erie-Prophetstown by a game.

"We talk every day about that,'' Nichols said of last year's TRAC-9 near-miss. "Our focus this season is to be prepared to play every day. We want to put ourselves in a position to win it; that's definitely our goal.''

Led by senior catcher and four-year starter Dayton Ince, theBoilermakers have split their first two games of the season.

Farrell gets early jump on Fulton 10-year reunion: Having graduated from Fulton High School in 2003 after having transferred there from Morrison, Jayme Farrell will get an early jump on his 10-year reunion plans after taking over as his alma mater's baseball coach.

After spending a year on Jim Fish's staff last spring, Farrell moved into the head position when Fish stepped aside after a four-year stint that included a Class 1A regional-championship in 2010. However, Fulton hasn't had a winning season since Farrell's senior campaign in '03. As a junior, he was a part of a 21-win season and a Class A regional title in '02.

"I was excited that I was able to be the sophomore coach here last year and get to know the area all over again,'' said Farrell. "There are a lot of people in the area, including coaches, that I know and who I played against, so it's exciting to be back in familiar territory. I hope I can take some things I learned from Jim last year and add it to the repertoire I'll bring in.''

Chief among Farrell's goals is to get the Steamers (10-18 in '12) higher up the TRAC-9 ladder after Fulton won just two conference games last spring.

Cairns goes solo at United: After working alongside longtime Monmouth Warren and United baseball coach Rick Johnson for 12 seasons, essentially sharing the Red Storm head-coaching duties with Johnson for the last several seasons, Steve Cairns is going solo in 2013.

"Jeremy (assistant coach and United A.D. Jeremy Sharp) and I were talking about how it'll feel awful weird when the first pitch flies and Mr. Johnson isn't there,'' said Cairns, who takes over a program that slipped to 6-19 last season and won just three Lincoln Trail games after winning the 2011 conference title.

"Rick built a house in Honduras, so he's been splitting time between here and there. It'll be different. Rick and I started the Warren program together, but he was the one who really got it going.''