Mike Nall, a former hurler for both UIC and Northwestern, enters his seventh year on the Flames' coaching staff as the Flames' pitching coach and his third as the team's recruiting coordinator.
Since Nall's arrival, UIC has seen extensive levels of success on the mound that has helped the Flames advance to three NCAA Regionals during his tenure.
The Flames' staff did not miss a beat in 2009. Nall helped talented righty Adam Worthington transition from being one of the top relievers in the Horizon League to becoming the conference's Pitcher of the Year as a starter. Worthington, who would go on to be selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2009 MLB Draft, posted the 10th-lowest career ERA in program history (3.78), while tallying the eighth-most strikeouts (177) in the second-most appearances (107).
The 2009 staff posted the second-lowest ERA in the Horizon League (4.62) and held opposing hitters to the second-lowest batting average (.290). Pitcher Chris Kovacevich also joined Worthington on the All-Horizon League Team.
In 2008, despite losing two of the program's all-time winningest pitchers to the professional ranks before the year, Nall restocked UIC's collection of arms with the likes of Derrick Miramontes and Mike Kool, a duo who anchored the starting rotation from start to finish, and helped the returning stable of veterans, such as Worthington, and young talent, such as emerging right-hander Peter Ifft, become a key ingredient to the Flames' second straight NCAA Regional trip.
Miramontes was named the Horizon League's Newcomer of the Year, while Worthington was selected as the conference's Relief Pitcher of the Year. Both were named to the All-League Second Team. Both Kool and Ifft were the Flames' hottest hurlers as the season wound down, with Kool allowing just five earned runs in his last 29.1 innings and Ifft earning a spot on the league's All-Tournament Team after winning the conference title game and before a stellar relief win over Dallas Baptist in an NCAA Regional contest.
A recurring theme is UIC's presence atop the Horizon League pitching statistical rankings under Nall's guidance. The Flames once again posted the conference's lowest earned run average and gave up the fewest total runs in the league.
Nall's staff played a huge part in the Flames' return to NCAA Regional play in 2007. UIC led the Horizon League with a conference-low 3.93 team earned run average and issued the fewest walks (142) while posting the second-most strikeout total (330). Behind the arm of Horizon League Pitcher of the Year Zach Peterson and the resurgence of Ryan Zink, UIC held the likes of top-ranked Vanderbilt and national powers Georgia Tech, Tennessee, and Long Beach State at bay at the plate.
Zink, who tossed a one-hitter in UIC's first-ever NCAA Regional win on June 1, 2007 against Long Beach State, went on to sign with the New York Yankees after he was drafted by the Bronx Bombers, while Peterson moved on to the Kansas City Royals organization.
The year before the UIC staff led the Horizon League with conference-lows in ERA, opponent batting average, runs allowed, earned runs allowed and walks. Led by Peterson, who won the league's pitching Triple Crown by topping the charts in ERA, wins and strikeouts, the Flames ranked among the top 35 programs in the nation in team earned run average.
In 2005 UIC pitching had a banner season behind the one-two punch of right-handers Zink and Peterson. The latter led the Flames with a 10-1 record, including wins in his last nine decisions, to go along with a team-best 3.31 ERA en route to All-Horizon League First Team accolades. Zink went 8-6 with a 3.78 ERA and a team-high 74 strikeouts to earn All-Horizon League Second Team honors and the Horizon League Tournament Most Valuable Player award.
Both Peterson and Zink made the Horizon League All-Tournament Team after the duo combined to shut down Milwaukee in the championship game.
In 2004 three Flames hurlers earned postseason honors from the Horizon League under Nall's tutelage.
In 2004 Zink was named to the All-Horizon League First Team and All-Newcomer Team as a freshman after going 9-3 with 92 strikeouts in 95.2 innings pitched. David Haehnel, who is currently in the Baltimore Orioles farm system and has pitched for Team USA, earned All-Horizon League Second Team honors by finishing with a record of 6-3 with 92 K's in 90 innings pitched, while teammate Tom Szalewski was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer squad after going 4-2 with an ERA of 2.76.
In addition to his on-field and in-game coaching duties, Nall has served as the program's chief recruiter since 2007. He also plays a big role in scouting, scheduling and various other areas of the program.
Prior to joining the UIC coaching staff, Nall served as the pitching coach for Valparaiso in 2003. During his stint there, Nall helped the Crusaders improve their win total by eight, ERA by 1.77 runs, strikeout-to-walk ratio by one-third and opponents batting average by 46 points. Nall was also instrumental in the success of 2003 Mid-Continent Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year Tom Starck.
Nall, a 2001 graduate of Northwestern, also brings professional experience to the squad, playing in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system after being selected in the 28th round of the 2001 draft.
E-mail Coach Nall at email@example.com.