MITCHELL, S.D. – Three members of the Dakota Wesleyan University baseball program are getting a taste of the Southwest this summer.
Tiger baseball assistant coach Kevin Nunn and recent DWU baseball graduates Michael Lukkason and Erik Nockleby are in Alamogordo, N.M., for the summer, coaching for and competing with the White Sands Pupfish – a professional baseball team in New Mexico. The Pupfish are part of the Pecos League, an independent professional baseball league with teams in New Mexico, West Texas and Southern Colorado.
Nunn is serving as the team’s manager for the month of May before returning to the Midwest to continue his offseason duties with the Minnesota Twins program. Nunn completed his first year as an assistant coach at Dakota Wesleyan this season. He served as the Tigers’ hitting coach. He also serves as a hitting coach at youth clinics put on by the Twins.
This is the first pro contract for both Lukkason and Nockleby, who graduated from Dakota Wesleyan in early May. Both athletes played in the Northwoods League last summer, which is a summer baseball league for players with college eligibility remaining. The duo joins players from around the country – and the world – on the Pupfish roster. Some, like Lukkason and Nockleby, are straight out of college, and others have played in the Pecos League or other independent leagues in years prior. Two players – Jhon Saavedra of Venezuela and Dominican Republic native Jose Ramirez – spent time in the New York Yankees’ Dominican Summer League prior to coming to White Sands.
Lukkason, an East Grand Forks, N.D., native, was recently named the Great Plains Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year. The shortstop led the team in batting average (.401), hits (67), doubles (13) and on-base percentage (.458) and finished second in home runs and slugging percentage. He led the GPAC and finished 28th in the NAIA in batting average, and also finished second in the league in home runs and third in on-base percentage and RBIs (43). Lukkason, who earned All-GPAC First Team honors, had a career batting average of .318 in four years at DWU.
Nockleby earned All-GPAC First Team honors and was named to the league’s golf glove team earlier this month. He finished his senior season second on the team with a .354 batting average and had 62 hits, nine doubles, 35 RBIs, a .503 slugging percentage, 13 stolen bases and a perfect fielding percentage from his position in center field. He led the NAIA and GPAC in fielding percentage, and finished fourth in the GPAC in total hits and seventh in batting average and RBIs.
The Pupfish open the 2013 season against the Alpine Cowboys Tuesday, May 14, in Alamogordo. The season runs through July.