Bolt Has a Loaded Deck

Depth and Starting Pitching Are on Huskers’ Side

Story by Steve Beideck • Photos by Amarillo Mullen

An experienced pitching staff and no 2022 recruits electing to turn pro are two big reasons for optimism about the upcoming Nebraska baseball season.

Left-hander Kyle Perry returns after Tommy John surgery.
Left-hander Kyle Perry returns after Tommy John surgery.

There are plenty of other signs that point to a successful campaign, but third-year Huskers coach Will Bolt said those two elements don’t occur as often as coaches would like.

“This is my first year since being here that we have a strong number of third- and fourth-year pitchers, guys who have been in the fire and have quite a bit of experience,” Bolt said. “With a bit of a shift in the roster dynamic, that’s a nice advantage to have.”

Nebraska has a large group of first-year players, including three in the signing class unveiled in November who are ranked among the nation’s top 200 recruits.

With the bumper crop of newcomers vying for playing time, an experienced pitching staff will give potential new starters a chance to settle in as the season progresses for the Huskers, ranked as high as No. 22 in the preseason.

Among experienced hurlers vying for extended playing time are juniors Braxton Bragg (Liberty. Missouri), Texas A&M transfer Mason Ornelas and Colby Gomes out of Millard West. Others include seniors Koty Frank (Tushka, Oklahoma), Shay Schanaman of Grand Island and Kyle Perry of Millard South, who returns after missing the 2021 season for Tommy John surgery.

Right-hander Braxton Bragg is part of a deep staff.
Right-hander Braxton Bragg is part of a deep staff.

The Huskers lost all four captains from the 2021 team that played in an NCAA Regional championship game for the first time since 2007 and won the Big Ten championship by 3.5 games.

“Getting all of our signees to campus helped to build some of the general excitement for this season,” Bolt said. “Any good team I’ve been a part of has that healthy competition. There will be a lot of competition with a lot of talented freshmen.”

The 2021 recruiting class, a larger-than-normal group for the Huskers, was ranked No. 20 by Perfect Game and No. 36 by Collegiate Baseball. While Bolt and his staff don’t put a lot of stock in those ratings, he said the plan was for a big class for the 2022 campaign.

“This class was larger by design,” Bolt said of the 10 signees. “It’s larger than you’re going to see us typically take. There was some initial roster turnover then departures when we got here. Sometimes you get more credit in the ratings with the size of your class.

Husker baseball right-hander Koty Frank.
Husker baseball right-hander Koty Frank.

“What it means to us is my assistant coaches have done a good job evaluating strong talent, telling kids what the University of Nebraska experience has to offer. It also shows sustainable success in your program.”

Bolt could already see the blending of veterans and first-year players taking shape during the fall season. He expects the “never-be-satisfied” mentality that took hold during the first semester to continue driving the team, beginning with a four-game series in Huntsville, Texas, Feb. 18-20 at Sam Houston State.

Only two starters from the ’21 squad that finished the season 34-14 appear to be entrenched at their positions. Third baseman Max Anderson hit .332 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs.

The Millard West graduate also was named a freshman All-American and Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Max Anderson looks to hold down his spot at third base.
Max Anderson looks to hold down his spot at third base.

“Having a full calendar year under his belt playing a position he’s never played before is big,” Bolt said. “He’s a nice anchor to have on that corner.”

Bolt said senior catcher Griffin Everitt has emerged as a vocal leader. He’s also happy with the depth that’s being built behind the Lincoln Southwest and Kansas City Kansas Community College graduate.

Sophomore Jack Steil from Cold Spring, Minnesota, is back at first base while another second-year player, Brice Matthews, could be moved this season to play shortstop. Matthews, from Humble, Texas, was selected to the Big Ten All-Freshman team and also was named to the NCAA All-Fayetteville Region team.

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Ted Kirk is a Lincoln-based photographer who has been a photojournalist since 1970. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native covered Nebraska Athletics from 1973 through 2018. During that span he covered thousands of Husker Athletic competitions around the United States. His work is being donated to the University of Nebraska Library Photo Archive.

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