NIU names Kunigonis new baseball coach

Mike Kunigonis
Mike Kunigonis

Mike Kunigonis, a veteran Division I coach who has spent the last seven years on the staff at Virginia Tech, most recently as the Hokies’ Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator, has been named head coach of the Northern Illinois University baseball program, NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier announced Monday.

“In Mike Kunigonis, we have found an outstanding coach who will lead the Huskie baseball program to the next level,” Frazier said. “Mike brings extensive experience at Virginia Tech as well as several other Division I institutions, he has recruited in Chicagoland and has a reputation for developing players. I am excited about the future of NIU Baseball under Mike’s leadership.”

Kunigonis said he is excited to join an NIU athletics program that is on the rise.

“I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of such a great program and university. My family and I look forward to joining the Huskie Nation,” Kunigonis said. “After meeting with Sean and members of the administration, and knowing the national attention the football program has drawn, the chance to be a part of this athletic department was very intriguing.

“[Former] Coach [Ed] Mathey did a great job revitalizing the program when he took over. We’re looking to take the program a step further, being a consistent force in the MAC but also in the region, and eventually on the national stage.”

In seven years at Virginia Tech, Kunigonis worked his way up from volunteer assistant coach (2008-10), to assistant coach (2010-13) before being named associate head coach and recruiting coordinator two seasons ago. The Hokies twice advanced to the NCAA Regionals during his time in Blacksburg, earning a No. 1 seed and regional host bid in 2013, when they finished as Atlantic Coast Conference runners-up. He has served as Virginia Tech’s hitting coach since 2010, and the Hokies have ranked among the country’s top offenses in each of those seasons. Tech had the top offense in the ACC in 2014 and ranked in the Top 25 nationally in five offensive categories in 2013. The 2011 Virginia Tech team ranked in the Top 10 nationally in multiple categories as well.

Over the past six seasons, the Hokies have had 20 players chosen in the NIU draft, with at least two players drafted each year. In 2010, eight Virginia Tech players were drafted, while six Hokies were selected in the 2013 draft. During Kunigonis’ time with the Hokies, nine position players have been chosen in the draft, although not one of them had been drafted out of high school.

Kunigonis, who will begin his duties at NIU this week contingent upon university approvals and the finalizing of human resources paperwork, is excited to further develop his relationships with players and coaches throughout the northern Illinois region after recruiting in the Midwest extensively in the past.

“I’ve spent a lot of time recruiting in Chicago in my time as a coach and the relationships that I’ve built there go way further than baseball,” he said. “Being at NIU, I’ll be able to expand those relationships with players and reach out to more of them.”

Prior to Virginia Tech, Kunigonis spent one season on the staff at Radford University in Virginia, where he coached the outfielders, worked with the hitters and directed the camps.

Kunigonis’ experience includes five seasons at two institutions in western New York. He was the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Canisius College in Buffalo during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons, where he also coached the hitters, catchers and outfielders. He spent the two previous seasons (2003, 2004) on the staff at Niagara University in a similar capacity. Both teams advanced to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament during Kunigonis’ time in their dugouts.

As a player, Kunigonis played four seasons at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He was named All-Region, All-Conference and All- ECAC at first base as a senior in 2001. He received the Butova Sportsmanship Award for excellence on and off the field.

A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Kunigonis earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from AIC in 2001, and completed his master’s degree in sports administration at Canisius in 2006.

He is the Huskies’ fifth head baseball coach since the program was resurrected in 1991.

NIU opens the 2015 season in Clarksville, Tennessee on Feb. 15, 2015 versus South Dakota State.

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