An improved pitching staff could have the Husker pitching rotation looking like a serious threat for the 2021 season. Coming off of a shortened 2020 season, Nebraska welcomes a new wave of talent to add much-needed depth at a position lacking in production last year.
Nebraska baseball head coach Will Bolt and assistant coach Jeff Christy said they are confident this is one of the best pitching staffs Haymarket Park has seen in recent years. Returning starters such as sophomore Cade Povich, senior Chance Hroch, and sophomore Shay Schanaman look to lead this youthful rotation come spring time.
The Huskers are coming off of a shortened season in which they had one of the worst earned run averages in the Big Ten, ranking 12th out of 13 teams. Christy, who coaches pitchers and catchers, focused on the increase in depth and the importance of having multiple pitches to throw the hitters off balance.
“If you can’t land another pitch, you are predictable, and that’s one thing we can’t be this spring is predictable,” Christy said. “We need to really try and focus on what the guys’ strengths are and who they are as a pitcher.”
Bolstering the bullpen was a major goal over the summer, and returning sophomore pitcher Colby Gomes looks to settle nicely into a relief spot after a starting gig last year coming off an injury. Juniors Paul Tillotson and Max Schreiber also add a pair of strong arms to a core that looks to be dangerous in the late innings of ball games.
Freshman Braxton Bragg impressed on the mound during the Wednesday scrimmage, allowing only two hits through three innings of work. He is one of the multiple freshmen who are looking to make an impact in their inaugural season as a Husker.
According to Christy, sophomore Spencer Schwellenbach returns this fall as he looks to grab hold of a closing role after throwing back in his high school days in Michigan. Primarily an offensive player, Schwellenbach has yet to see time on the mound in his career, but looks to be locked into a spot as starting shortstop. Christy also noted the transition to a closer, as the Huskers look to solidify the bottom of their bullpen with a powerful arm like Schwellenbach’s.
“We have a lot more pieces, and I feel comfortable in our guys whenever they are called upon to come in,” said Christy. “I feel like the depth is a lot better and we have a lot more pieces to pick and choose from based on the situation at hand.”
Christy also noted that while the strange offseason hasn’t affected the conditioning of arms, pitchers are being eased back into their roles with shortened scrimmages and practices. After the four-month layoff from baseball, players are excited to get back on the diamond and play again.
Bolt has also praised his pitchers, giving credit to the talent that has been living up to expectations through the first couple fall sessions. Although there is a long way to go until the first pitch of the season, Bolt’s confidence in the pitching staff gives warranted hope for a solid 2021 campaign
“The pitching, outside of a couple days, has been dominant,” Bolt said in a press conference. “I think a major takeaway is that the pitching has been really good at pounding the zone, but equally as good has been how well we’ve taken care of the ball.”
Sophomores Kyle Perry and Tyler Martin remain out for the fall, both coming off Tommy John surgery. Both Perry and Martin played roles mostly coming out of the bullpen last season. With many new additions, players like junior Trey Kissack and redshirt freshman Caleb Feekin have room to build on their previous season and add a lot to an already improved roster.
“I think for us, it’s just been a sense of being able to coach again and get back on the field,” Christy said. “It has been really refreshing and none of us have taken that for granted.”