Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Bolt Encouraged by Huskers’ Level of Play in Return to the Diamond

September 21, 2020

As you might’ve heard, the Nebraska baseball team’s six-inning, intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday afternoon at Hawks Field attracted 38,000 views on Facebook.

Such is Husker passion.

Beyond that, however, the start of fall practice “just getting back,” provides “some normalcy” for the players, Coach Will Bolt said on Friday.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season ended abruptly in mid-March, of course, after Nebraska had played only 15 games.

So now the restart.

“Even though it doesn’t look exactly the same as it did before, (the) last time we all saw each other,” it is “incredible for their mental health, just getting out there,” said Bolt.

To some degree, the roster looks similar to last fall’s, and not just in numbers. It included 42 players a year ago, and it includes 42 players now, among them Mojo Hagge, Luke Roskam and Joe Archer, who as seniors in 2020 were given the opportunity to return by the NCAA.

The roster also includes some newcomers, including “a little bit more experience on the mound, which we made some junior college moves that way,” Bolt said.

Chance Hroch, a grad transfer from New Mexico State, is now part of a pitching staff that includes seven of the eight who started games in the brief 2020 season.

Nineteen of the 42 are from in-state, walk-ons as well as recruited and senior transfer Logan Foster, an outfielder who sat out last season after transferring from Texas A&M.

In recruiting, “we’re going to go wherever the talent is, too, but you’ve got to have a strategy, you’ve got to start somewhere, and Nebraska has really good high school baseball,” said Bolt.

“A lot of guys go off (to junior college) and maybe are a little bit late-bloomers . . . guys that maybe hadn’t made a name for themselves at all in high school, but just the work habits that are ingrained in them, they come back and they’re bigger, stronger and faster and more ready to play (at) the Division I level, like Griffin Everitt, Luke Sartori, those type of guys.”

Everitt and Sartori, like Foster, went to Lincoln Southwest High. Everitt, a catcher, transferred from Kansas City (Kan.) Community College, Satori, an outfielder, from Hutchinson Community College.

Identifying Nebraska as a recruiting base is “a strategy, I think, more than anything,” said Bolt, who played for the Huskers, “and the fact that we want to make sure that those guys want to continue to come to Nebraska and not go elsewhere. I mean, that’s the biggest No. 1 push.”

In addition to adding pitching experience, “we wanted to address the depth in the infield, behind the plate, (and) I think we’ve done that,” Bolt said. “We’ve added some pieces that are versatile, athletic, physical; hopefully, durability comes from that.”

Fall practice will allow him and his coaches to see if that’s the case.

“I was pleased yesterday, just seeing the first scrimmage out of the chutes where we were just pretty crisp, especially defensively; a lot of different guys handled the ball in some different positions,” he said. “So definitely a key focus for us in the off-season was kind of rebuilding the roster a little bit.”

He was “pretty excited with where we’re at that way,” said Bolt.

The teams scored a combined nine runs in the scrimmage, with a two-run double by Everitt breaking a 3-3 tie in the 6-3 Red team victory.

Leighton Banjoff, who led the Huskers with a .341 average and earned Freshman All-America recognition from Collegiate Baseball in 2020, hit a home run for the Red team.

Pitchers combined to strike out 15.

Beyond being pleased with play in the scrimmage, “I wanted to see their smiles underneath the masks,” Bolt said, “because, you know, you’ve got the masks on, you don’t get to see guys’ facial reactions, and I just wanted to kind of take that time to say, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool that we’re back. We’re on the field. We’re competing. We’re all together.’

“I’d say the mental state is . . . they’re excited to be back, regardless of what that looks like.”

You might have been among the 38,000 excited to be able to check in on Facebook.

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