Before the Nebraska baseball team gets on a plane and flies to Texas for its season-opening four-game series at Sam Houston beginning on Friday, the Huskers held a short, situational scrimmage on Tuesday in an effort to fine-tune some things.
With the opener only three days away, the team is itching to go up against someone that isn’t a teammate, head coach Will Bolt said.
“I know our guys are ready to just go play against somebody else at this point,” he said Tuesday afternoon inside the Alex Gordon Training Complex in Lincoln.
The Huskers’ starting rotation was revealed, and the left-handed senior from Millard South, Kyle Perry, will get the start on Friday night. While Perry is talkative and engaging off the field, he flips a switch when he’s on the mound and doesn’t need much coaching.
“I don’t really say much to him, and don’t really need to say much to him,” Bolt said of Perry. “He knows who he is, what he’s trying to accomplish and it’s kind of a personal attack on each guy. He’s out there trying to just compete as well as he can against every single hitter, and that’s what makes him very successful and I think that’s what you’ll see from each guy who takes the ball.”
First pitch for Nebraska’s Friday game is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN+. The Huskers will play two games on Saturday with righty Shay Schanaman starting the first game and righty Dawson McCarville starting the second. Braxton Bragg, another right-hander, will get the Sunday start.
The battle between Perry and Schanaman was tight. Bolt said those two were “neck and neck” and even though he didn’t get to see Perry throw in the fall, Bolt isn’t worried about the health of Perry, who missed most of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2020. Perry returned to the team late in the season and pitched against Arkansas in the regional final.
“Like I said, they’re 1A and 1B. Those guys have been involved in almost all the conversations with the coaches together,” Bolt said of Perry and Schanaman. “They’re captains, and really for us, it came down to a potential matchup problem that, maybe having a left-handed pitcher on Friday could create another team maybe thinking about changing up their lineup. A lefty tends to maybe shut down a running game a little bit at times, we saw that with (Cade) Povich last year on Fridays.
“Couldn’t go wrong either way, but excited about the four guys we got leading the way this weekend.”
McCarville is one of two transfer pitchers to join the team this year—the other being Mason Ornelas from Texas A&M—and came to Nebraska after spending the past two seasons at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. Before that, he played two seasons at Glendale Community College. Last season at Grand Canyon, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound McCarville went 5-3 with an 3.58 earned-run average while owning a 48-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
McCarville’s fall could be described as “up and down” according to Bolt. Some of that may have been a product of trying to do too much right away. But that was then, and this is now. The transfer has a better idea of what his role on the team will be. He’s been sharp and competitive, which is what Bolt hoped to see in the fifth-year player.
“I think he’s settled in this spring, understanding what’s the expectation of him, coming in and be a guy at the front of games for us,” Bolt said of McCarville. “He’s going to be a guy who can sink the ball, he’s really refined his slider, and the changeup has been a good equalizer pitch for him against left-handed hitters especially. We’ve seen that all come together this spring. He was in that mix after the fall, and we knew that, maybe what we had seen in the fall wasn’t exactly what he was capable of, and he’s been outstanding.”
Bragg has been the most consistent pitcher on the roster since August, Bolt said. The third-year player from Kansas City will be looking for a bounce-back season after he had an 8.04 ERA in 15 2/3 innings of work in 2021. But the work and improvement he’s shown the coaching staff over the course of the last six months earned Bragg the opportunity to start on the first weekend.
“You look back at his season from last year, he was better at extended outings. Then he went and had a great summer as a starter,” Bolt said. “He came in this fall, and he’s always been a strike thrower, but the quality of strike is better now. There’s a fastball to both sides of the plate. He’s mentally tough to be able to overcome some of the tough times that he had last year.”
The first weekend isn’t ever going to make or break anyone’s season. But Bolt thinks there are real things you can take away from players when the games start to count in the win-loss columns.
“Especially for a young player, you get to see his reaction when the lights are on for the first time, and how that goes,” Bolt said. “Maybe that gives you a little bit of an insight as to if they’re a guy who can potentially play every day or not, or if they need to ease into it.”
Familiar face coaching the Bearkats
Sam Houston’s head coach, Jay Sirianni, is a former Husker baseball player and teammate of Bolt. Sirianni played for Nebraska from 1997-99 and was a graduate assistant for the Huskers in 2001.
The Bearkats went 30-25 overall last year and were 20-15 against conference foes.