The College World Series starts this weekend, so it’s a good time to take a look at what’s been going on with Nebraska Baseball recently. There have been coaching changes, both announced and unannounced, a couple recruiting/transfer announcements, some big performances by some recent alumni, and some major recognition for a couple members of some current Huskers! Let’s get to it!
It comes as no surprise that Brice Matthews and Max Anderson, 2 players expected to go very high in next months MLB Draft, have been accumulation numerous All-America Honors.
Collegiate Baseball - Anderson: 2nd team 2B, Matthews: 3rd team SS
NCBWA - Anderson: 2nd team 2B, Matthews: 2nd team SS
Perfect Game - Anderson: 2nd team 2B, Matthews: 3rd team INF
ABCA/Rawlings - Anderson: 2nd team 2B
Anderson and Matthews were also both named first team All-Central Region by ABCA/Rawlings. The central region includes everything from North Dakota down to Texas, so a pretty good representation.
Max Anderson was named the NCBWA District 6 Player of the Year. District 6 includes Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Max Anderson was the first player in the country to collect 100 hits this season, finishing with 101. He was also the first Husker to hit over .400, batting .414, since John Cole hit .418 in 2001. He added 20 doubles, 2 triples, 21 home runs, 70 RBIs and 51 runs.
Brice Matthews was the first player in program history and the second player in Big Ten history to collect 20 home runs and 20 steals. He also reached base in the first 52 games of the season, making his 55 game reach base streak the longest at Nebraska since at least 1999. He added 67 RBIs and 61 runs scored.
Coaching Staff Updates
Coach Bolt announced the hiring of assistant coaches Mike Sirianni and Rob Childress to his coaching staff today.— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) June 13, 2023
Coach @SirianniMike will work with hitters and infielders while Coach @Rob_Childress will serve as pitching coach.#GBR | https://t.co/9H9JYwKTva | ⚾️⚡️ pic.twitter.com/Olaa7tH8HO
It’s well known by now that the team parted ways with Jeff Christy, and announced Rob Childress will be taking over as the teams pitching coach on July 1st, when the team can officially add a 3rd full time assistant to the staff, per the new NCAA bylaws. Until then, he can meet with pitching recruits on campus, but not travel for home visits until he is an official member of the coaching staff. Childress worked with players the past two summers in prepping their “hearts and minds”, but was hands off when it came to actual working with pitchers.
Lance Harvell remains in another paid staff position, and the team added former Wichita State coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Sirianni to fill out the new 3rd full time assistant position. Will Bolt chose to add him to the Husker staff first before Childress, so that he could go out and recruit for the month of June with all the relationships he made while at Wichita State. Sirianni will be in charge of the infield, work with hitters, and help with recruiting at NU.
Former Director of Baseball Operations Curtis Ledbetter is also no longer with the program. The exact circumstances with his departure haven’t been released, but it was confirmed he is no longer with the program, after he was removed from the staff directory earlier this month. It is unknown yet who will take over as Director of Baseball Ops, though reports state that Volunteer assistant for the past 4 years Danny Marcuzzo will not be taking over the role.
Speaking of Marcuzzo, the volunteer coaches position is technically still available to be used in baseball (in addition to other sports), despite all the publicity that the NCAA was transitioning the volunteer positions to paid positions. The new bylaws did not technically eliminate the position, rather just added another paid coach to match sports like basketball with 3 full time assistants.
Now for most universities, the volunteer truly didn’t earn much. They couldn’t be salaried or receive paid benefits from the university. They are able to use camps and clinics to get paid, which is fairly profitable at Nebraska compared to most other universities in the region or Big Ten. So Marcuzzo could potentially remain on in the same position next year, despite the new rules. He would just still not be able to recruit off campus with that designation, but with the 3 assistants on staff now, that wouldn’t be a big issue.
Latest on the Roster
After the end of season talks between the staff and players, numerous players have entered the portal. They join the players who exhausted their eligibility and one retirement so far in leaving the roster. Let’s see who’s gone so far.
Graduated/Eligibility exhausted: Casey Burnham, Charlie Fischer, Shay Schanaman, Efry Cervantes, Griffin Everitt, Michael Garza
Transfer Portal: Luke Jessen, Mikey Pauley, Jake Bunz, Blake Mosley, CJ Hood, Brandon Lundquist, Mason Ornelas
Retirement: Corbin Hawkins
To the game that has taught me so much. The dream has been chased and I’m happy with my decision to move onto the next stage of my life.— Corbin Hawkins (@corbinhawkins2) May 30, 2023
Thank you to everyone at Nebraska, especially the Coaching staff, taking a chance on a kid from Omaha. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MvhSdAAIne
A couple surprises regarding those lists. First has to be the retirement of one of the most trusted relievers down the stretch run of the season in Hawkins. Also Kyle Perry is still listed on the 2024 roster, meaning he is probably trying to go after an additional year, due to his multiple arm injuries. While his skills are greatly diminished after all his injuries, he has been by far the biggest vocal leader of the team.
The biggest departures from the roster will be from the MLB Draft. You have to expect Anderson and Matthews are all but gone, as almost every pre-draft ranking has them in the top 150 prospects. The two biggest names to watch that could swing 2024 are Emmett Olson and Jace Kaminska. While I expect to see Olson taken relatively high that he will have a decision to make, I think Kaminska will probably be back. The length of his outings mixed with his low number of strikeouts compared to his peers may keep him from going high enough to warrant leaving vs coming back and seeing what Childress can do.
Nebraska has landed commitments from 6 pitchers in the past fortnight: two 2024 high schoolers, an JuCo, and 3 transfers. Harvell and Sirianni are the guys in charge of HS recruiting, while Childress is watching the portal on a daily basis, with somewhere close to 5,000 players having entered it since the season ended for some teams.
The biggest name so far is former Omaha closer Rans Sanders. Schanaman leaving leaves a big hole at the back end of the bullpen, and Sanders will join Trey Frahm, who was presumed to be the closer going into 2023 before an injury the week before the season started, in trying to replace him. Huskers got a good dose of Sanders, as he threw a 2 inning save with 4 Ks in the 10-6 Omaha win on March 14th, he also picked up the win despite blowing the save in the 6-5 Omaha win in extra innings.
Former Brown starting pitcher Bobby Olson is also joining NU. He posted a 4.44 ERA, striking out 56 batters in 46.2 innings. He joined Brown for the shortened 2020 season. The Ivy League didn’t play in 2021, and then pitched again in 2022 and 2023. He should have 1 year of eligibility left for this upcoming year.
The Huskers also added Tulane transfer Grant Cleavinger. The 6’5” lefty made 20 appearances as a freshman in 2023 for the Green Wave. He has electric stuff, in 20.1 innings, he struck out 32 batters. Childress has to reign in his control, as he gave up 24 walks and 7 wild pitches, which ballooned his ERA to over 10.
Cloud City Community College freshman RHP Mason McConnaughey will also be joining the Husker pitching staff. He was 8-4, had a 3.69 ERA and 93 strikeouts over 68.1 innings. He along with Cleavinger are Kansas kids, who had to be scouted by Sirianni coming out of HS.
Speaking of Kansas, Childress and Sirianni teamed up to land two 2024 RHPs from the Sunflower State. Gavin Blachowicz, a former Wichita State commit (see below), and Whit Rhodes each throw in the upper 80s and will look to join a pretty LHP heavy roster when they show up on campus.
A situation to watch is what is going on down in Wichita State. In December, the university announced Eric Wedge would not be returning as head coach, and named Loren Hibbs as interim coach. Hibbs turned around the team from a disappointing 2022 and led them to a 30-25 record in 2023, winning American Athletic conference Coach of the Year. It was announced at the conclusion of their season, none of the staff would be retained.
Now that worked out well for Nebraska, in that they grabbed Sirianni, but when former Washington State coach Brian Green was named coach instead of Hibbs, the floodgates opened.
Wichita State now has 31 players in the Transfer Portal. Three have withdrawn, from what I understand.— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) June 11, 2023
Over 30 players in the Shocker program announced they were in the portal. A few would end up pulling out of the portal, but the vast majority remain, including the headliner All-American DH/LHP Payton Tolle. You would have to think Sirianni is in touch with a number of those guys. Be on the lookout for some former Shockers potentially coming up north.