A few familiar names stand ready to take the ball on the mound this season, looking to pick up where the pitching staff left off last year. Gone are weekend starters Cade Povich and Chance Hroch , as well as lights out closer, Big Ten Player of the Year, First Team All-American and John Olerud Two Way Player of the Year, Spencer Schwellenbach.
Gone are a number of wins and a number of saves, but the cupboard is certainly not bare.
At least three returning pitchers have experience starting on the weekend for the Cornhuskers, and they will be joined by a transfer with weekend experience. A number of pitchers with relief experience are going to battle for more time, along with some very strong freshmen who join the staff.
If that isn’t enough, a fan favorite returns after missing the last two years with an injury looking to take on the closer role.
There is plenty of competition for the three starting spots in the weekend rotation, but those most likely to take the hill will be Kyle Perry, Shay Schanaman, and Dawson McCarville.
The crafty lefty from Millard South, Kyle Perry enters his senior season after making strong appearances at the end of the 2021 season coming off surgery. A captain this season, he could likely begin the season as the Friday starter. With a lot of movement on his pitches, Perry also has the emotion and mindset to set the standard on the weekend. There is no question that he is a leader that will set tone for the team.
Shay Schanaman, another captain, figures to step into another one of the weekend starting spots. The right-hander from Grand Island made twelve starts last season and ended with a 5-2 record in the Big Ten only season. Schanaman excels when he is able to locate his pitches and does a good job keeping hitters off balance. A one-two punch of Perry and Schanaman would be formidable for opponents.
A senior transfer from Grand Canyon University, Dawson McCarville, is a good bet to fill the third starting spot. After a slow start a year ago, McCarville ended up making 11 total starts and posted a 1.36 ERA during conference play in the Western Athletic Conference, where he was an honorable mention ALL-WAC selection. The right-hander brings a multitude of pitches with him and could be the guy that finishes up weekend series.
If any of the three falter and do not end up at the top of the starting staff, look for senior Jake Bunz, another lefty and homegrown talent to fill the spot. Bunz showed real tenacity in his three starts last season and battled both as a starter and from the bullpen posting a 2.20 ERA.
Christo, Frank, Olson
Elkhorn freshman Drew Christo comes in with a lot of accolades and a plus-90 mph fastball, and will get a good look in a starting role.
Also, returners Koty Frank and Emmett Olson will have a say on who has a starting spot. Both of these have the mix of pitches necessary for a starter, with Frank adding an unusual slider change to his arsenal of pitches this year.
With a total of seven new freshmen or redshirt freshmen pitchers – five hailing from Nebraska — on the roster, there will certainly be opportunities given to these young arms to show what they can do.
The Closer - Colby Gomes
Perhaps the biggest shoes to fill are that of the closer, now that Spencer Schwellenbach has started his professional career. The leading candidate is a familiar face that fans have not seen for a couple of seasons. Colby Gomes, who filled the closer role as a freshman during the 2019 season, has been sidelined with arm injuries the past two season. He has rehabbed, is healthy, has added a nasty splitter, and stands to return to his previous role.
Additional Bullpen Help
Additional bullpen help will most likely come from Texas A&M transfer Mason Ornelas, Caleb Feekin, Braxton Bragg and a variety of new faces. With the Cornhuskers opening the season with a four-game series this weekend in Huntsville, Texas against Sam Houston, plenty of opportunity will be provided for a large number of pitchers to show what they have.
Any conversation about Nebraska pitching going into the 2022 season is incomplete without mentioning one more addition, Rob Childress. The former Texas A&M skipper returns to Nebraska, where he once served as pitching coach under Dave Van Horne.
Childress forged a strong relationship with Head Coach Will Bolt since their days together on Buck Beltzer Field, and with Bolt serving as an Aggie assistant prior to being hired to lead his alma mater in Lincoln. Jeff Christy returns for his third season as pitching coach, but there is no question that the expertise of the “pitcher whisperer” we be felt.
In a pre-season press conference, Kyle Perry spoke confidently about pitching being improved over a very strong 2021 season, despite the losses to the staff.
We are all going to find out if that is the case real soon!
Jon’s note - This article was supposed to be published yesterday, but due to a mix up on my part, it is here today. Will Bolt has announced his starting pitchers for the opening weekend:
- Friday: LHP Kyle Perry
- Saturday 1: RHP Shay Schanaman
- Saturday 2: RHP Dawson McCarville
- Sunday: RHP Braxton Bragg