Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

After Poor 2022 Campaign, Nebraska Baseball Undergoing Roster Shakeup

May 31, 2022

As Michigan won the Big Ten Baseball Tournament over Rutgers in Omaha on Sunday night, Nebraska’s roster reconstruction was already well underway.

Days after the Huskers’ season ended last Saturday with a 23-30 overall record and a 10-14 mark in Big Ten play, there have been seven departures, six of which entered their names in the transfer portal. Cam Chick, a team captain, announced on social media that he wasn’t going to use his fifth year of eligibility.

Chick hit .251 in 2022 with eight home runs—tied for second-most on the team with Griffin Everitt—and 26 RBIs. Chick, the leadoff man for much of the season, was the best player the Huskers had at getting on base. The Missouri native drew the most walks (37), was hit by the most pitches (16) and had the best on-base percentage (.425).

In his four seasons as a Husker, Chick started 146 games and owned a .256 batting average while collecting 143 hits, 24 home runs and 109 RBIs.

The portal players included pitchers Braxton Bragg, Ethan Bradford and Quinn Mason, infielder Jack Steil and outfielders Leighton Banjoff and Tyler Palmer. Bragg, Banjoff and Steil are the notable names.

Bragg, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound third-year right-hander from Missouri, had a team-best five saves, an earned-run average of 3.28 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 37-to-8. He was one of the most effective relievers in the Huskers’ bullpen.

Both Bradford, who battled an early-season injury, and Mason combined to throw seven innings this past season. Palmer, a redshirt freshman from Columbus, Nebraska, was used mostly as a pinch runner and only had three at-bats the entire year.

Banjoff is another third-year player now looking for a new home. The speedy 6-1, 200-pound Ohio native excelled defensively in the outfield for Nebraska and made multiple highlight-reel catches. But at the plate, Banjoff batted just .233 with 31 hits, two home runs and 17 RBIs. Like Chick, he showed a good eye at the plate, drawing the second-most walks with 33, and got on base (.401 on-base percentage, second-best on the team).

Steil played in 28 games with 19 starts as a true freshman during Nebraska’s excellent 2021 campaign that saw the team make an NCAA regional final. He hit .203 with three home runs that season, but in 2022 Steil’s numbers regressed—he hit .176 with 12 hits, one home run and seven RBIs in 33 games (21 starts) that provided 68 at-bats.

After a season that began with a preseason selection to win the Big Ten but ended with failing to qualify for the eight-team conference tournament that was held in his back yard, Nebraska head coach Will Bolt and his staff have been aggressive with a plan to flip the roster.

As of Monday, that includes a newcomer group that’s unofficially 18 strong. It includes 10 junior-college additions, seven from the high school ranks and one Division I transfer.

Prep prospects 

According to Perfect Game, Nebraska has 2022 class commits from left-handed pitcher Caleb Clark (Orillia, Ontario, Canada), right-handed pitchers Brandon Lundquist (Millard North), Sam Novotny (Millard West) and Austin Berggren (Olathe, Kansas), infielder Dylan Carey (Castle Rock, Colorado), outfielder Hayden Lewis (Yutan, Nebraska) and catcher Mikey Pauley (Overland Park, Kansas). They’ll join the team this fall.

Millard South standout right-hander Nate Moquin originally committed to Nebraska, but has decided to join Iowa Western Community College instead.

The 10 JUCO commits:

Blake Mozley | Johnson County (Kan.) Community College | Infielder

Mozley, a 5-10, 184-pounder who began his career at Missouri State, hit .396 with 10 home runs and 65 RBIs this past spring at Johnson County. The Ozark, Missouri, native led the team in doubles with 30 and had the second-most hits with 82.

Zachary Johnson | Southeast Community College | Catcher

The Millard North grad Johnson has spent the past two seasons with Southeast in nearby Beatrice, and his latest season with the Storm was his best. After hitting .371 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 25 games as a freshman in 2021, Johnson improved his average this past spring to .474 while hitting a whopping 21 homers and 80 RBIs in 55 games. His .474 average was tied for first in all of junior college.

Bryce Hughes | Alvin (Texas) Community College | Infielder

In 39 games this past season, Hughes, a 5-8, 175-pounder, batted .376 at the plate with two home runs and 19 RBIs.

Ben Columbus | Wharton County (Texas) Junior College | Catcher

Columbus, a Canadian, hit .356 with a team-high nine home runs and 57 RBIs this past season at Alvin.

Dayvin Johnson | Iowa Western Community College | Outfielder

Johnson, a 6-1, 180-pounder from Kansas, spent the past two seasons in the Reivers’ program. In 50 games this past spring he hit .265 with six home runs and 31 RBIs. The year before that, he had played in 39 games and batted .295 with three home runs and 25 RBIs.

Brett Sears | Iowa Central Community College | Pitcher

In 14 appearances at Iowa Central this past season, the 6-1, 200-pound Sears owned a 3.06 ERA and an 11-3 record on the mound. The right-hander’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was 114-to-22. Sears spent his first two seasons of college baseball at Western Illinois. In 2020, he had an ERA of 12.27 in just 7.1 innings. In 2021 he got better, dropping the ERA to 5.91 in 42.2 innings while striking out 25 with 22 walks.

Trey Frahm | College of Southern Nevada | Pitcher

Frahm, a native of Elkhorn, is coming home. The 6-foot, 230-pounder spent the past two seasons at College of Southern Nevada where he both pitched and hit for the Coyotes. In his first year there, 2021, Frahm did very well as a batter, hitting .354 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. On the mound was a different story, however, as the right-hander compiled a 9.22 ERA in 12.2 innings. Frahm’s numbers dipped this past spring—in 133 at-bats, his average was .203. He hit just one homer and knocked in 16 RBIs. On the mound, he had a 2.65 ERA in 15 relief appearances and recorded a 30-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Matt Dreher | Northeast Community College | Pitcher

The 5-11, 180-pound Dreher, a native of Blair, spent the past two seasons in Norfolk playing for the Hawks. The left-handed pitcher appeared in 19 games and had an ERA of 8.83 while striking out 32 and walking 25. The season before that, Dreher owned a 5.4 ERA and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 42-to-25.

Ryan Sleeper | Wabash Valley (Illinois) College | Pitcher

The 6-4, 225-pound left-hander had a 2.63 ERA in 13.2 innings of work that included one start. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 18-to-10. The season before last he had a 0.96 ERA while throwing 9.1 innings and striking out 15 batters against two walks.

Cole Evans | Parkland (Illinois) College | Outfielder

Evans, a native of Grand Island and former Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year who had a brief stint at Creighton in 2020, is joining the Huskers. This past spring, the 6-2, 210-pound Evans was an NJCAA DII All-American at Parkland College, which is in Champaign, Illinois. In 147 at-bats, Evans hit .388 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. The season before, he hit .365 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs in 148 at-bats.

Burnham joins the Huskers

The lone Division I transfer to join Nebraska so far is outfielder Casey Burnham from Kansas. Burnham, another Grand Island native, spent four seasons with the Jayhawks and is a career .257 hitter. He racked up 86 hits, two home runs and 30 RBIs this past spring.

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