Angel Santiago is in his eighth season (2019) at the helm of the Nicholls softball program.
Last season, Santiago led the Colonels to a 40-15 record and the program's first Southland regular season championship since 1996. Nicholls finished with a 21-6 in conference, winning the title by three games.
Santiago's Colonels garnered eight All-Southland honors, including four of the major awards. Along with Santiago being named coach of the year, Nicholls also garnered pitcher of the year (Megan Landry), freshman of the year (Jewel Lara) and newcomer of the year (Kali Clement). Landry was recognized as the Southland's Student-Athlete of the Year for softball, Google Cloud Academic All-American and NFCA All-Region.
In 2017, Nicholls posted a 37-20 overall record and a 19-8 record in the Southland, earning the No. 2 seed in the Southland Conference Tournament. The Colonels went on to reach the championship game for the first time since 2008, taking home SLC runners-up.
After leading Nicholls to a 39-17 overall record and 21-5 in league play in 2016, Santiago became the fourth head coach in program history to be named Southland Conference Coach of the Year. Santiago’s Colonels blew past the league’s expectations, which projected the Colonels to finish 7th/8th in the preseason polls, as they headed into the final weekend of the regular season with a chance of claiming the program’s first regular season title in 20 years. Although his team finished 1.5 games out of first, the Colonels clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2010 and put together Nicholls’ best season since 1998.
Santiago’s 2016 team did not go unnoticed by the league as two players earned the Southland’s most prestigious honors. Senior pitcher Hannah Haydel was named Pitcher of the Year, while standout shortstop Amanda Gianelloni was named Freshman of the Year. The duo was also placed on First Team and was joined by senior outfielder Danielle Phillips, giving the Colonels the most First Team selections since 1997. Two freshmen also earned All-Southland Second Team as Gretchen Morgan and Veronica Villafranco were recognized at designated player and utility, respectively.
As a team, Nicholls posted the NCAA’s 30th best winning percentage out of 290 teams. The Colonels’ success was fueled by an outstanding pitching staff, headed by Haydel and freshman Megan Landry. Haydel ranked 17th in the nation with a 1.53 ERA, Landry was 35th at 1.80 and collectively, the staff registered a phenomenal 1.89 ERA, which was the sixth-best in the country.
Santiago came to the Colonels in 2012. From his first year to his second year, there were marked improvements in all aspects of the Nicholls brand of softball. Santiago led Nicholls to 14 victories in his inaugural season before increasing the win total by eight in his second year as the Colonels finished with 22 wins. In addition to more overall victories; conference victories, offensive production - including total hits, runs scored, on-base and slugging percentage – all increased, as did the fielding percentage. In the circle, the Colonels showed progress in 2013 by lowering their team ERA from the previous season.
In 2015, the Colonels finished with a 26-22 overall record - marking the first winning campaign since 2010. The team also claimed 12 wins in conference play, matching 2013 for the most in the last five seasons.
Many aspects of player strategies as well as strength and conditioning efforts have given the Colonels a new edge in this rebuilding process. With patience and hard work, the Nicholls program under Coach Santiago is now working to improve to the next steps among its peer institutions.
Since Santiago’s arrival, Nicholls softball has been represented with individual player and academic awards. On the field, players have received All-Region, Southland Conference and All-Louisiana honors as well as weekly player of the week awards. Ashley Bertot received one of the highest Southland awards in 2012 as she garnered Newcomer of the Year, and Jessica Taylor received the same award in 2015. In 2013, two Colonels were named NSCA Strength and Conditioning All-Americans for their dedication in the weight room.
Academically, players represented Nicholls in the classroom posting an improved 3.12 GPA, which is currently up from a 2.85 GPA before his arrival. In his first two seasons, Santiago had a player named Southland All-Academic First Team. In 2015, two players landed on the Southland All-Academic Second Team.
Off the field, Coach Santiago has also introduced and implemented various team community involvement opportunities to the public such as Women’s Day at the Ballpark, Military Appreciation Day, Jr. Colonels Camps, Advanced Winter Camps, visits to elderly living homes and the Strike Out Cancer Game. Santiago has also brought in guest speakers to enhance the team’s life experiences.
Orchestrating the fundraising, The “Get Them Ready Fundraiser” has been very successful in providing current and future rosters with necessary equipment and improved travel needs to compete at the Division I level. Santiago knows that gathering additional support from boosters and families are one of many reasons for better training equipment that is helping the Colonels to become successful.
Prior to joining Nicholls in September of 2011, Santiago, a native of Chicago Heights, Ill., was an assistant coach for eight years at Florida State and the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).
A former minor league baseball player, Santiago spent three seasons at Florida State as an assistant for the Seminole softball program. While at FSU, the Seminoles advanced to the NCAA Division I Regional Softball Championships three times, including his last season where they were crowned Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Champions. Santiago was a key factor in “retooling the Seminoles” recruiting prowess and game play methods.
Known for being a specialist in hitting and catching, Santiago guided FSU to a .297 batting average in 2010, its highest mark since 2003. In the same season, the team’s 212 total walks were the most since the 2004 season, just to name a few. The ‘Noles also posted just 226 strikeouts at the plate; the fewest since the 1998 campaign. The ‘Noles systematically excelled in many statistical numbers posted prior to his arrival.
Before joining Florida State in 2009, Santiago helped rebuild a struggling UNLV program during his five years in Las Vegas. In 2005, the Rebels recorded their third-highest win total (44) in the program’s history and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years. Also in ‘05, the Rebels belted a then-program best 50 home runs. That year the UNLV coaching staff received the West Region Coaching Staff of the Year honor presented by the NFCA.
Coach Santiago is a very active instructor with hitting clinics, coaching presentations, and sports fitness academies across the country. Santiago began his coaching career as the head baseball coach at Prairie State College in his hometown of Chicago Heights, Ill. Prior to his two-year stint with Prairie State Baseball, he played four seasons of minor league baseball in the independent leagues with the Dubios County Dragons (IN), Cook County Cheetahs (IL), Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks (CAN), and Canton Crocodiles (OH). While playing Santiago was named to the Heartland League All Star Team in 1996 and crowned the league leader in batting average (.374) in 1997.
A graduate of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Coach Santiago studied Physical Education and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He also earned certificates from USA Weightlifting and USA Track & Field which have helped him develop athletes in all disciplines of sport.
Prior to his time at SIUE, he played baseball at Parkland Junior College in Champaign, Illinois.