What a relief, as in Nebraska’s bullpen.
Preparing for his second season as Husker head coach “that was priority No. 1, quite honestly,” Will Bolt said during his weekly Zoom conference on Wednesday.
“We recognized that in the 15-game season last year, that we were, I don’t remember what the numbers were exactly, but I think we were leading in probably, like, 12 of the 15 games after the fifth inning last year (and) just couldn’t finish ‘em off.”
The bullpen didn’t have “the necessary pieces,” said Bolt. Hence, the priority, “try to reassemble the bullpen a little bit, the pitching staff in general, just (to) give us more options.”
As a result, additions to the roster included three pitchers, all transfers, who have played important roles in the bullpen: Jake Bunz, Cam Wynne and Koty Frank.
Wynne, a transfer from Texas A&M (after Johnson County Community College), has made a team-high 10 relief appearances, with a 1-0 record and 0.96 earned-run average.
Bunz, who also has been the fourth starter, has made eight relief appearances, pitching 10.2 innings without allowing a run, walking only two and striking out 18. Overall, he’s 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA.
Frank, a transfer from Eastern Oklahoma Community College, has pitched 14.1 innings in six relief appearances. He’s also 1-0, with a 2.51 ERA.
Frank pitched three scoreless innings last Sunday against Michigan State, his first appearance since April 4 against Illinois, “which is just crazy to think about, how valuable he is to our staff,” Bolt said.
“He’s a guy we feel like can turn the lineup over, and he did that.”
Nebraska’s relievers didn’t allow a run in 11 innings during the Michigan State series. In fact, the Husker bullpen hasn’t allowed a run in the last seven games and the final inning of the eighth, two-plus series. The numbers are 23.1 innings, 10 hits, 11 walks and 33 strikeouts.
In addition to the contribution of the newcomers—freshman Emmett Olson has also made four relief appearances—Spencer Schwellenbach has become the closer, pitching for the first time at Nebraska. He has yet to allow a run in
14 innings, walking two and striking out 18, with five saves.
“Everybody’s ready to go at all times,” said Wynne. “We have trust in all our bullpen arms and that we can throw anybody whenever we need to. So I feel like we have a lot of depth in that regard. That gives us a lot of options, and it’s led to some success for us.”
That success needs to continue when Nebraska plays host to Rutgers, which won two-of-three at Michigan last weekend, at Haymarket Park this weekend. Friday’s game is slated for 6:30 p.m., Saturday’s at 4 p.m., and Sunday’s at noon.
Capacity at Hawks Field has been increased to 6,125.
The games will be televised on BTN+.
Nebraska is No. 22 in this week’s D1Baseball poll, No. 24 in the Baseball America poll and No. 19 in Perfect Game’s rankings. D1Baseball also projects the Huskers as NCAA regional hosts.
Such national recognition doesn’t change the Huskers’ approach, however.
“Just be consistent, like it’s been all year long,” said Bolt.
“We’ve just got to show up each day and, as boring as it may sound, just be good that day, just have a good practice, just show up and play our style of baseball every given day. So you don’t just make too much of . . . the ‘noise’ that’s going on outside the program.”
As for being ranked, “we’re all happy,” Wynne said. “But that’s not our goal. That’s not our motivation. That’s just the by-product of the hard work we’ve been putting in.”
Their goal is much loftier.
Clearly, the players have bought in. You might say that’s a relief.
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.