And so it comes to an end, Nebraska’s special season.
Special, but not necessarily unique.
“We’re here, and we’re going to be here for a while,” Cade Povich said, following the Huskers’ 6-2 loss to Arkansas in the final game of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional Monday night.
After four innings, Nebraska led 2-0. After five, the score was 2-1. And with two out and the bases empty, the Huskers were tied with overall-No. 1-seed Arkansas at 2.
But then, with a 2-2 count, the Razorbacks’ Christian Franklin, who had struck out three times, fouled off four pitches on the way to drawing a walk—the first of three in a row.
A wild pitch, a home run, and Arkansas was on its way to being host to a super-regional against North Carolina State, while the Huskers were preparing for the trip home.
Nebraska managed just four hits in the game, three off Kevin Kopps, the national pitcher of the year. Kopps, who had already been used twice in the regional, came on in relief in the third inning and finished the game, striking out eight, without a walk.
He threw 90 pitches Monday night, 181 in three appearances combined.
As with Kopps, Povich stepped up when needed, starting with only two days’ rest for the first time since he could remember, he said. He pitched 3.1 innings in Friday’s first game against Northeastern, 4.1 against Arkansas, allowing three hits, striking out six and walking two.
One of the hits was a home run by catcher Casey Opitz.
Luke Roskam hit a home run in the second, and Mojo Hagge scored on Jaxon Hallmark’s ground out to short in the third. Hagge and Logan Foster walked to lead off the inning, ending the day for Arkansas starter Jaxon Wiggins. Hagge and Foster moved up on Joe Acker’s sacrifice.
The Razorbacks’ second run came on a two-out home run by Robert Moore in the sixth.
But enough of the painful details. Nebraska finished the season 34-14, after going 7-8 in the COVID-wiped-out 2020 season, Will Bolt’s second as Husker head coach.
That needs repeating, Bolt’s second season.
Though the season ended in disappointment Monday night in Fayetteville, before another hostile crowd of 11,084, optimism surrounding the program continues—as it should.
Playing Arkansas, on its home field, “we’ve seen what the best looks like,” said Bolt.
“So that’s a good start . . . our guys have gotten pretty close here to getting to the next level, got to the regional final for the first time in a long number of years. So we’ve got to build on it.”
The roster lists nine seniors: Acker, Hallmark, Roskam, Hagge, Foster, Chance Hroch, Gunner Hellstrom, Max Schreiber and Trey Kissack.
And junior Spencer Schwellenbach is expected to leave by way of the Major League Draft.
The seniors and “upperclassman have laid a pretty solid foundation for what’s to come,” Bolt said.
This season, highlighted by Nebraska’s play in Fayetteville, is something on which to build, not just something to be marked down in history with an asterisk. “It shows that we’re here,” Povich said.
The junior left-hander was emotional in his remarks.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “And I know that Coach Bolt and the rest of the staff and the guys coming back, everyone, everybody’s going to be there . . . this won’t be forgotten, this feeling won’t be forgotten . . . I think the only way for this team is up.”
Bolt echoed Povich.
“We’re going to be one of the hardest-working teams in the country. We’re going to be asked to show up every day, be very competitive, and I think this is certainly a stepping stone here,” he said.
The season is over, but not what appears to be a continuing climb.
“I think the needle’s definitely pointing up,” Bolt said.
Five Huskers made the Fayetteville Regional All-Tournament team: Acker (outfield), Roskam (first base), Schwellenbach (relief pitcher), Griffin Everitt (catcher) and Brice Matthews (third base).
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.