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Nebraska Baseball Preview: Infielders

Let’s get our look at the 2023 Huskers started in the dirt!

It’s hard to believe, but we finally made it to game week!

For the 3rd year in a row, we have over 20 new faces on the team to get to know. What’s different this year, is you will see more of the new guys are Juniors and older, as opposed to last years team, where the majority were freshmen. That was a big priority by the staff, to get more experience at each position, as last year there were so many guys that either were first year players or hadn’t played their main position before, and it showed.

Without further ado, let’s have a look at all the new faces, the familiar faces in new places, and who has moved on, starting with the infielders.


Gone: Nick Wimmers, Drew Wessel

New Faces: Zach Johnson (Jr.), Ben Columbus (Jr.)

Captain Griffin Everett returns after logging the majority of the time behind the plate for the last 2 years. While his bat is a welcome return, his defense (other than his blocking, which was tested a lot with the pitching woes last season) leaves a lot to be desired. Bank on seeing Griffin fill the DH or 1B role more often than behind the plate. Josh Caron has been developed to be the primary catcher. I’d expect to see him at least 2 games per weekend series to start. He is a better framer and has a better arm, but needs to improve his blocking.

Newcomer Zach Johnson (Southeast CC) brings a huge bat to the position. A 1st team JuCo All-American, Johnson led the JuCo ranks with a .474 avg and also hit 30 HRs in his 2 years. While he is listed as a catcher on the roster, they will find a way to get his bat in games, as time in the OF has been mentioned, along with DH. Ben Columbus (Wharton County JC) was named the Defensive POY of his conference. He looks like he’s been playing catcher his whole life. He is also a LH batter and can swing it (he hit a home run in the fall game against Kansas). Don’t be surprised to see him earn some playing time behind the dish.

First Base

Gone: Colby Gomes, Jack Steil

New Faces: Charlie Fischer (Grad.), Mikey Pauley (Fr.)

The position on the infield with the most attrition was first base. Both the old vet in Gomes, and the younger guy in Steil are no longer on the team. If you’ll recall, we saw Max Anderson shift over from 3rd Base to end the year, in an attempt to get another plus defender at 3rd Base in Efry Cervantes. Expect more guys to be worked through the position this year that might not be natural first-basemen, as Coach Bolt drops 1B as a possibility for almost every player whom the media asks where they might play.

Redshirt-Sophomore Will Walsh (who is also a LHP) seems in line to get the majority of the time early on. Freshman Mikey Pauley is also going to get some looks. Pauley is a converted HS catcher who is also on the football team in the quarterback room. Morale of the story is don’t get used to anyone too quick here. There will probably be a lot of riding a hot bat with both 1B and DH, as there are many more options at both positions than previous years.

Second Base

Gone: Core Jackson

New Faces: Bryce Hughes (Jr.)

The biggest move of the infield, is Max Anderson shifting from 3rd Base to 2nd Base. While Anderson was never a liability on the left side of the infield, the coaching staff is trying to make room for a plus defender after last year’s cumulative struggles defensively. Anderson has been one of the biggest cogs on offense since he arrived, hitting .314 with 17 HRs in his first 2 seasons. Don’t expect that to change.

The Huskers will cross-train a lot of players so anyone that plays SS or 3B could be seen at 2B as well. Bryce Hughes is one of those candidates, as he joins Nebraska after batting .393 at Alvin Cimmunity College. JuCo players aren’t really brought in to sit and ride the bench, so Hughes should get some opportunities early somewhere in the field.

Short Stop

Gone: None

New Faces: None

Maybe the biggest key to the season is what happens as Bryce Matthews tries to put his sophomore struggles in the field and regain his form that made him an All Big Ten freshman team recipient. Offensively his numbers rallied after being sat down for a few games with a good stretch run that almost got Nebraska to the B1G tournament, but his 15 errors and .921 fielding % need to rebound if the Huskers are to make some noise in the Big Ten.

The primary backup is once again Efry Cervantes, the 5th year Sr and newly minted captain. If you’ll recall, his insertion into the everyday lineup helped lead the resurgence of the team’s punch to get to Omaha with its emphasis on defense. And don’t forget, he was the SS for some of the biggest outs of the 2021 Conference Championship team when Spencer Schwellenbach went in to close. There still a place on this team for the sure handed vet.

Third Base

Gone: None

New Faces: Dylan Carey (Fr.), Blake Mozley (Jr.)

The Huskers have shifted around their entire infield to make room for true freshman Dylan Carey. The move for the natural SS and number 1 prospect in Colorado aims to elevate the teams overall defense. Coach Bolt does not hesitate to compliment the maturity and selflessness of the freshman. One example of that is that Carey joined a college level summer league last year to prepare him for Nebraska instead of facing more HS pitching as almost all HS players do.

Blake Mozley joined Nebraska from Johnson County CC, where he exploded onto the scene last year with a campaign in which he hit .393 with 10 HRs and 30 (THIRTY!) doubles, which was 2nd in the NJCAA. He gives NU a powerful left handed bat, which was something they were lacking with only 3 total left handed bats on the team last year.

Other Thoughts

As we saw last year, Coach Bolt is not afraid to move people around to get the best defensive team or best matchup against the opposing pitching staff. While this preview is what we expect to see early on, look for a lot of tinkering to take place.

Another notable newcomer to mention is Charlie Fischer. He was primarily a DH at his previous school, Southern Miss, but he will probably be trained at a few positions, to ensure Nebraska can utilize any shifting around, with the number of pitchers also used on offense/defense, like they did with Schwellenbach.

Stay tuned all week as we preview the outfielders on Tuesday and pitchers on Wednesday, and more, all leading up to the first series of the year starting Friday, 8pm CT at San Diego.