We began our look ahead to the 2022 Husker baseball team with how the infield will take shape and will now switch to the outfield. This is going to be the area with the biggest overhaul on the diamond for Nebraska. Gone is lead off man and 5th year senior Joe Acker. Jaxon Hallmark decided to bypass his extra year of eligibility due to covid, and sign as a free agent with the Astros organization. And its hard to believe, but after 9 years, Mojo Hagge has finally run out of eligibility. (We kid because we love.)
Replacing those three could very well decide how the Huskers’ season goes. Not only do they lose a lot of offensive production, both at the plate and on the base paths (combined 29 stolen bases on 33 attempts), but defensively it has been a while since the all around speed and instincts in the outfield has been at as high of a level as it was last year. Add to all that the fact that they made up 3 of the 4 team captains, and you begin to realize just what an important task figuring out the right mix of guys early on in the Husker season is.
Gone: Mojo Hagge
Projected Starter: Cam Chick
After working as a DH/3B/2B/LF thus far in his career, Cam Chick is looking to lock down the left field spot in the Husker lineup. The captain ranks in the top 2 in multiple offensive categories for returning Huskers. He overcame a slow start to 2021 with a slump-busting 2 home run, 6 RBI game at Iowa that set the tone for the rest of the season. Look for him to be a fixture near the top of the order yet again.
Gone: Jaxon Hallmark
Projected Starter: Luke Sartori
Center field is expected to be manned by Luke Sartori. The Lincoln native returned last year after a year at Hutchinson CC, where he led them in numerous offensive stats during the 19 game shortened 2020 season. He appeared in 5 games for the Huskers in 2021 (because you try and tell Jaxon Hallmark to come off the field). Redshirt Freshman Garrett Anglim, the top ranked outfielder in Nebraska for his class last year is also expected to see time.
Gone: Joe Acker, Logan Foster
Projected Starter: Leighton Banjoff
A fully healthy Leighton Banjoff is looking to take over in right field. The former Freshman All American was able to play in only 22 games in 2021, but now looks to regain a spot in the everyday lineup. After mainly DH-ing his first year, he played some at first base and right field last year as well. If he can regain his freshman form, while providing steady defense, it could go a long way in allowing the Husker outfield to have some stability.
Outlook for the Outfield
The offense isn’t lacking in the outfield as constituted above. We may see the DH spot rotate with the above players as well, to give some of the younger guys some experience out on the field. Expect freshman Luke Jessen out of Elkhorn to get some early looks, as well as freshman utility man Kyler Randazzo, previously mentioned in the infield preview. Redshirt freshman Tyler Palmer should also be able to work his way into the lineup, now that the loaded outfield from last year has moved on.
That trio, along with Garrett Anglim should see a lot of time in mid week games to provide some rest to the regulars. But they are talented enough that once they are given an opportunity, it may prove hard to not keep them in there. The battle for playing time in the outfield may be the best competitions to watch as the season progresses, and could tell the story of how far the Huskers can go in 2022.
Check back on Wednesday, as we continue our preseason previews, with a look at the pitchers.