Will Bolt coaches the way he played, with a sense of urgency, an attitude reflected in his approach to the Nebraska baseball team’s season-opening series at Baylor.
The first game is slated for 6:35 p.m. on Friday. Senior left-hander Gareth Stroh will start for the Huskers. He’ll be followed by sophomore right-hander Colby Gomes on Saturday and sophomore left-hander Cade Povich on Sunday. All are Nebraskans.
And all have been in consideration as starters “going back to the fall,” Bolt said before practice on Wednesday. They have been “some of the guys we figure we could count on to start, kind of turn the lineup over, build some pitch counts and those type of things.
“Those guys have been the most consistent for us, kind of coming back.”
So this weekend isn’t necessarily experimental. Bolt and pitching coach Jeff Christy have already done some sorting out; hence, the weekend’s sense of urgency.
It’s an “imperfect world,” Bolt said. “That’s kind of where we’re at.”
Time is of the essence as it relates to pitching.
“We don’t really have the luxury of kind of finding our way through it. I mean, we’ve got to buckle down game one and game two and game three, and hopefully by the first weekend, we’ve got a pretty good idea of throwing some guys in the fire, of who’s going to be dependable, who’s going to throw strikes, who’s going to be able to bounce back out of the bullpen.”
One of those in the bullpen will be sophomore right-hander Shay Schanaman, who was included on the NCBWA’s 70-player “Stopper of the Year Watch List.”
Schanaman made 19 appearances last season, all in relief, finishing with a 1-2 record, a 3.18 ERA and three saves, second on the team to now-starter Gomes’ 13.
Stroh sat out last season after transferring from Purdue, where he started 31 games, in 32 appearances, over two seasons, going 10-6 with a 4.34 ERA.
Before Purdue, he pitched at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
Stroh is starting the opener because “he’s been there, done that before,” said Bolt.
“He’s a very diligent worker . . . he knows what he’s doing. He knows what his strengths are as a pitcher. He knows what his weaknesses are. He knows how to set up hitters, so he’s kind of got a pretty good feel for what he’s trying to do to attack hitters. I think he’s a guy that can also be very efficient, so he can get you deep into a ballgame, and that’s really what you want on Friday night.”
Stroh didn’t pitch much during the fall. He pitched one inning in an exhibition against Wichita State and “we pretty much shut him down after that,” Bolt said. “I kind of told him at that moment, I said, we’d pretty much seen what we needed to see . . . his numbers from the summer were pretty astounding, honestly, so (I) didn’t really need to see a whole lot (more).”
Stroh pitched for Wisconsin Rapids in the Northwoods League during the summer. He started 10 games, had a 7-1 record, a 1.60 ERA and struck out 57 in 61.2 innings—with 17 walks.
Bolt wanted Stroh “100-percent healthy . . . at this time of year.”
Gomes earned Freshman All-America recognition as a closer. He did some hitting as well, as a first baseman and designated hitter. But his focus is pitching now.
Povich’s numbers at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix “stood out first, and then kind of once you lay eyes on him, you see a projectable left-hander that’s 6-4,” Bolt said. “It seemed like he weighed 110 pounds at the time, but he’s put on some good weight.”
Povich is listed at 6-3, 185 pounds. In any case, the junior college numbers to which Bolt referred included a 10-1 record, a 1.52 ERA, eight complete games and five shutouts.
Stroh was on the Big Ten Preseason Honors list along with junior outfielder Aaron Palensky and sophomore infielder Spencer Schwellenbach.
Palensky, who led the Huskers with a .320 batting average last season, and Schwellenbach are among nine of 11 players who started at least half of Nebraska’s games a year ago. So there’s more certainty offensively and defensively, based on that, going into Bolt’s first season.
Nebraska, picked fourth in the conference by the coaches behind Michigan, Ohio State and Minnesota, is scheduled to open Big Ten play against Northwestern at Hawks Field on March 27, with the first home series three weekends away, four games against Columbia March 6-8.
As with Baylor, the next two series are three games each.
“I like that,” said Bolt. “We don’t have to have a fourth starter right away. We don’t necessarily have to stretch multiple guys out that maybe (aren’t) quite ready to do it. It’s more realistic to what a regular season’s like, so I like the three-game sets.”
Either way, he’s ready to attack.
“We’re all excited,” he said. “We’ve had three weeks to get prepared, and our guys have been very focused.”
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.