The American Baseball Coaches Association has announced that Luther College Head Coach Bryan Nikkel has been named the 2016 ABCA/Diamond Central Region Coach of the Year.
Coach Nikkel, who just completed his second year (54-37), led the Norse to a school record 34 wins and 14 losses. Picked to finished fifth in the Iowa Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, Luther posted a league record of 17-11 and finished third.
At the Iowa Conference six-team double elimination tournament, Nikkel’s squad went 4-0 and secured a trip to the NCAA III National Tournament for the first time under his direction and first in school history since 2007. The Norse opened the tournament on day one defeating Simpson College 12-10 and then defeated No. 2 seed and nationally ranked No. 29 Buena Vista University 8-4. Day two, the Norse defeated regular season champions and nationally ranked No. 20 Wartburg College 9-3, advancing to the championship game. Luther won the tournament championship defeating Wartburg for the second time in as many days by a final of 10-4.
At the Midwest Regional hosted by UW-La Crosse at Copeland Park in La Crosse, Wis., the Norse posted a record of 2-2. Luther defeating No. 13 North Central 8-6, lost to No. 19 Concordia-Chicago 16-3, defeated St. Scholastica 3-2, and were eliminated by St. John’s University (MN) 5-4.
Success brings postseason honors and five Norse were named all-conference that included junior Nate Beckman who was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year. Three were named all-region and senior catcher Mitch Knippenberg was named a third team ABCA/Rawlings All-American, becoming only the second player to earn All-American honors in baseball in school history.