Hall of Fame 2019 Feature: Strikeout King Jeff Nokovich Relished Attacking Opposing Hitters

Hall of Fame 2019 Feature: Strikeout King Jeff Nokovich Relished Attacking Opposing Hitters

ADRIAN, Mich.--The Adrian College Athletic Department, in conjunction with the Office of Alumni Relations, will induct the 2019 class of the Adrian Bulldogs Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday as part of Homecoming activities. The ceremonial dinner will be held at 6 p.m. in the Tobias Center of Ritchie Hall, preceded by the Walk of Fame (5:15 p.m.) from the Caine Center and reception (5:30 p.m.).

Celebrating its golden anniversary of honoring former Bulldog greats for 50 years, the Hall was established in 1969 to recognize former athletes and coaches who have distinguished themselves in the field of intercollegiate athletics at Adrian College either by their performance on athletic teams during their undergraduate years, by their strong leadership in their profession, or their meritorious efforts on behalf of the athletic program at the College.

This year's honorees include Jim Nowaske '83 (football), Lisa Scheid Wallbaum '91 (field hockey, softball), Bulldog men's hockey teams of 2009, 2010 and 2011, Krissy Leigh Sheets Kisov '09 (softball) and today's Hall of Fame feature Jeff Nokovich '07 (baseball, basketball).

Jeffry Nokovich '07 (baseball, basketball) – Flint, Mich.

Jeff was a four-time All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association standout, including three first-team certificates, as the first dominant pitcher in Bulldog baseball history. In addition, he was named All-Mideast Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association three times, a third-team selection in 2005 and then a first-team starter and a second-team reliever a year later.

He was voted the league's 2006 most valuable pitcher after posting a 7-3 MIAA-only mark with a 1.83 earned-run average and 92 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. As a senior, he ranked fifth in NCAA Division III with 12.1 strikeouts per 9 innings and 30th in ERA.

As a junior, Jeff was third in the nation with a 13.2 strikeouts per 9 innings figure – which is a school single-season record, set in 2005.

Jeff is Adrian's career record holder in strikeouts (297), strikeouts per 9 innings (10.79) and lowest opponent batting average (.213). He also is fourth with a 2.73 ERA while posting a 20-14 record. He also is the MIAA all-time leader with 232 strikeouts and a 1.60 ERA.

Jeff was a senior member of the 2006 unit that won 20 MIAA games for the first time, sharing the championship with a 21-7 mark.

Jeff not only excelled on the diamond but also on the hardwood as a three-year basketball team captain who made All-MIAA three times. He was twice voted the Bulldogs defensive player of the year and was a three-time recipient of the George Burke Award for pride, hustle and desire. He led the MIAA in steals and assists in 2006.

"This is an individual award but so many played a part in (me) getting here," Jeff said, crediting his teammates. "Thanks for believing in me. I would go to battle with you all again and love every second of it."

He graduated in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in communications and a minor in business.

Jeff, who is employed by Candela as a senior territory manager, lives with his wife Jillian and children Jaylen (13), Kendall (11), Tatum (8) and Nolan (4).

Jeff enjoys spending his time coaching his children and watching them compete, a vocation that keeps him involved in athletics since his intercollegiate career ended at Adrian.

A Flint resident, Jeff has many memories from his days as a Bulldog, stating "being part of back-to-back championship baseball teams (2005-06) were some of my best memories. The competition and the experiences, challenges and successes that comes with it have carried over into my daily life and it has truly been irreplaceable. I have two of my best friends in Mike Ballard and Todd Meyers who were teammates and are lifelong friends. I also had the pleasure of playing with the greatest teammate I have ever had and is also a friend to this day, Adam Novak. I was very fortunate to have played with great players and great coaches who made my time here a great experience. I also have special thanks to a couple of teammates who played a massive role in my success, including Luke Harrigan and Xander Younce."

"I think Jeff is one of the best pitchers we have ever had and holds a place alongside all of the dominant pitchers we have had here," said Craig Rainey '89, Jeff's longtime Adrian coach, about his legacy. "He also ranks up there with the best ever in the MIAA. His statistics and accomplishments speak for themselves. Just looking at the numbers his career is remarkable and he was a two-sport guy, so he missed the start of most of our seasons. He probable lost five-six starts over his career due to basketball season. Just imagine had he been able to make those starts what the numbers would have been."

Jeff values his AC baseball and basketball coaches' diligence in developing him as a talented student-athlete, role model and professional prepared for life's lessons.

Coach Rainey knew Jeff was a no-nonsense gamer when the Bulldogs recruited him to Adrian College.

"Everytime Jeff took the mound you knew we would get his best effort. He wanted the baseball in any situation and was an extremely competitive person. He would come right after hitters with his best stuff and his stuff was pretty good. He had an unhittable curveball that he wasn't afraid to throw anytime. His fastball had enough velocity and movement to keep hitters from squaring it up. He was one of the toughest guys on the mound, fearless."

"They invested in me as a player and person and it was my pleasure to have played under and learn from all of them. They gave me a chance to succeed when other people doubted me."

Jeff also realizes that his college professors were instrumental in his success as a total person.

"From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping me succeed," he said. "My family and I benefit everyday from my education. The professors I had were unbelievable and patient,so thanks very much as all involved made my time at Adrian College both special and successful."

Jeff was driven to succeed academically, athletically and spiritually by his grandfather, saying "he was my hero. During my time here I played for the name on the front of the jersey for Adrian College. (But) I played for the name on the back of my jersey for my grandpa; we did it, I know you would be so proud."

In the end, Jeff knows that his family is the most important thing to him. "Thank you for the love, support, hours spent and just believing that I could do anything. I played sports because I loved it and you made it fun by supporting it."

Rainey concluded, "I am extremely happy for Jeff that his accomplishments were recognized by the committee. He worked extremely hard and was equally successful on the baseball diamond and basketball court. He is a great guy on top of it. It is always great to see guys that gave you 100 percent everyday, get their spot in the Hall of Fame."

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