Matt Waldron, gone. Nate Fisher, gone. Reece Eddins, gone.
Nebraska’s weekend starters last season all completed their eligibility and have moved on.
Mike Waldron, gone. Robbie Palkert, gone.
The Husker relievers with the most innings pitched completed their eligibility and have moved on.
Get the idea? Nebraska’s pitching rotation will, of necessity, look much different this season, Will Bolt’s first as head coach, replacing Darin Erstad.
As far as pitching is concerned, “we’ve got to replace a lot of guys. I think the experience isn’t there,” Bolt said on Friday, the first day of practice, pointing out the obvious.
Pitchers who accounted for only nine starts last season return, sophomores Kyle Perry and Colby Gomes. Perry, a mid-week starter, had seven of the nine. Gomes was the closer by the time Big Ten play began. He earned NCBWA All-America recognition with 13 saves in 17 relief appearances.
The 13 saves are the third-most in Husker history.
Gomes was 0-3 with a 4.09 ERA. He also played in the field, starting 40 games at first base, two as the designated hitter and one at third base. He batted .209 with a home run and 18 runs-batted-in.
Hitting won’t be a focus this season, however. The plan is for Gomes to be a starting pitcher, a transition that shouldn’t be difficult. “I just want him to prepare every day like he’s going to be the best pitcher in the country and just to go out and earn it every day with his work habits,” said Bolt.
“He’s got an opportunity to . . . I think he’s got a chance to pitch as long as he wants to pitch.”
That’s high praise for the young right-hander.
“With him it’s just going to be about those work habits,” Bolt said. “It’s going to be about sustaining those, and when you have that, you have a chance to turn the lineup over multiple times, which is what we need to see from him, being a closer last year.”
Gomes “had a great end to his fall and I expect he’s going to be right in the mix,” said Bolt.
The decision to become a starter was shared with Bolt, but only to a degree. “I think my body was shot after last year,” Gomes said. “Coach Bolt came in and asked what do I want to do? So basically (I) just said, ‘I don’t have an answer for you right now.’”
Bolt told him to think it over.
A week or two later, Gomes recalled, he told Bolt he wanted to be a starter.
The transition has been “really easy,” said Gomes, more “fine-tuning” than adding.
“Last year I mainly threw fastballs and that was about it, just threw as fast as I possibly could,” he said. “When you’re a starter, you have to learn how to spot up all of your pitches instead of just one. So I think that’s been the biggest thing for me . . . fine-tuning all my pitches.”
The roster currently includes 36 players, though Logan Foster, a senior transfer from Texas A&M, will have to sit out this season. That means he’ll be on the team but not the roster when the season begins. The Huskers are scheduled to open with a three-game series at Baylor, Feb. 14-16. Junior left-handed pitcher Connor Curry also will miss the season because of Tommy John surgery, his second.
Seventeen on the roster are listed solely as pitchers, six of them freshmen, one a redshirt freshman. Sophomores Spencer Schwellenbach and Shay Schanaman and junior Jaxon Hallmark are listed as infielder/pitcher. Schwellenbach is projected at shortstop, Hallmark at second base.
Schanaman, a right-hander, made 19 relief appearances, with a 1-2 record, a 3.18 ERA and three saves, second on the team to Gomes’ 13. He didn’t have an at-bat.
Nebraska’s most experienced pitcher is senior left-hander Gareth Stroh, who sat out last season after transferring from Purdue. After pitching one season at Coffeyville Community College, Stroh made 32 appearances—31 of them starts—over two seasons at Purdue. His record was 10-6 with a 4.34 ERA.
Stroh, who’s from Kearney, Nebraska, earned third-team All-Big Ten recognition in 2017.
“He’s pitched a lot of Big Ten games in his career,” Bolt said. “He’s been around the block.”
In addition to Schanaman, Schwellenbach and Perry, four pitchers are sophomores, which means half the staff has had, one season or less of collegiate experience.
But “I’m not really worried about our pitching staff,” said Hallmark.
Neither, it seems, is Bolt. “I think we have a lot of talented options,” he said. “It’s just a matter of who’s going to be able to build up and go through the lineup more than once.”
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.