When Nebraska opens regional play against Northeastern in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Friday night, Cade Povich will be the Huskers’ starting pitcher.
Was there any question about that?
“There was a bit of discussion, just to make sure we were dotting all our i’s and crossing our t’s,” Coach Will Bolt said during Thursday’s post-practice Zoom conference. “But really, at the end of the day, we were all very convicted in the fact that we needed to keep Povich on Friday.”
No looking ahead. No anticipating a victory and an almost-certain game against Arkansas on Saturday. “We feel like the most important game’s the one right in front of us,” said Bolt.
That’s how it’s been all season. Povich has started 13 times, all the first game of a weekend. The junior left-hander from Bellevue, Nebraska, is 6-1, with a 2.82 earned-run-average.
In 73.1 innings, he has struck out 79 and walked only 19.
Not walking batters is especially important against Northeastern, which has stolen 119 bases in 149 attempts. The Huskies are hitting .298—so at least make them earn first base.
That Povich, Big Ten Pitcher of the Week three times this season, is a left-hander also helps. He’s been “pretty good at holding the runners,” said Bolt. Plus, Nebraska’s catchers, Griffin Everitt and Luke Roskam, “have done a fantastic job of limiting extra bases as well.”
Northeastern starter Sebastian Keane, a redshirt-freshman right-hander, is 6-1 in 11 starts, with a 3.93 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. He has walked 19, too.
Spencer Schwellenbach, named second-team All-American as a utility player by Collegiate Baseball, figures prominently in the Huskers’ pitching plans this weekend, as well.
He’s 2-1 with a 0.71 ERA and nine saves, in 16 relief appearances.
“He’s been one of our best pitchers, so we need to maximize his innings over the course of the weekend . . . he’s ready for it. He’s extended out,” said Bolt. “I mean, he’s thrown 70 pitches in an outing before. He’s thrown six pitches in an outing before.
“He’s bounced back and thrown multiple days in a row.”
Schwellenbach’s bat also will be important this weekend. He’s batting .289 with six home runs and 35 runs-batted-in, tops on the team. Four other Huskers have driven in 32 or more runs.
Jaxon Hallmark leads Nebraska in hitting, with a .341 average. He has hit eight home runs, tying Roskam for the team lead. Roskam is batting .308, with a team-high .531 slugging percentage and 34 RBIs. His on-base percentage, .448, also is a team-high, as are his 31 walks.
Freshmen Max Anderson and Brice Matthews have each driven in 32 runs. Anderson, Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is batting .337 and has hit seven home runs.
Hallmark has stolen 16 bases in 19 attempts, leading the Huskers, who ranked second in the conference with 64 steals in 78 attempts—numbers that pale in comparison to Northeastern’s.
The Huskies “have speed, and they’re fearless,” Bolt said. Stealing bases is “part of their game. They are a very, very complete team, if you look at the numbers.”
They’re not to be taken lightly. No team is at tournament time.
So Povich will be the Friday starter. As he has been all season.
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.