Nebraska baseball had something to celebrate this past weekend.
The Huskers were well-represented in the early rounds of the MLB Draft, with three players selected within the first four rounds for the first time in program history. Brice Matthews was picked by the Houston Astros with the final pick of the first round, followed by the Detroit Tigers drafting Max Anderson in the second and the Miami Marlins choosing Emmett Olson in the fourth. Jace Kaminska rounded out the team’s draftees in the 10th round when he was picked by the Colorado Rockies.
Given the early selections, it goes down as one of the best draft showings in Nebraska history, if not the best. Head coach Will Bolt was happy to see the hard work of his players pay off in that way.
“It’s huge, just knowing their stories too, their background,” Bolt said Wednesday. “The three guys that went inside the top five rounds, not super highly recruited out of high school. Those guys just came in and they worked hard, they did everything we asked them to do. To just be able to be part of their journey has been pretty awesome.”
He said those results can help get recruits to Nebraska, showing it’s a school that can help get them to the next level. Having more of those type of players and developing them properly will be key to Nebraska’s on-field improvement. Despite those individual talents in 2023, the Huskers fell short of the NCAA Regionals.
“You see the best teams in the country, it’s not three or four guys drafted, it’s eight to 10 to 12 guys drafted,” Bolt said. “That’s where we want to get, right? So you need that top-end talent, but you also need maybe your six hole hitter to be a high draft pick as well.”
In a number of ways, depth will be key to Nebraska’s recruiting approach this offseason. On the offensive side, Bolt said he can’t expect to replace Matthews and Anderson, who combined for 41 home runs in 2023. Rather, the team will look to maintain a balanced hitting lineup.
Perhaps more importantly will be the pitching. It took the Huskers a while to settle on Will Walsh as their third weekend starter, and the midweek pitching never really found consistency. The team’s poor midweek record was a major reason it didn’t receive an at-large regional bid, something Bolt acknowledged.
“We need to be better in the midweek games. And, you know, again, that comes from depth of roster, that comes from the ability to put together and manage the pitching staff to a certain degree to where you can do that,” he said. “And you’re just maybe not just drawing names out of a hat, which it seems like we were doing a little bit on some of the Tuesday games. And so who’s gonna start, who’s going to come out of the pen? If Schanaman’s burned from the weekend, who’s going to close games for us? So we’ve got to have the ability to have multiple guys that can step up and play those roles for us.”
That process is already underway. The team has acquired transfers such as Brown’s Bobby Olsen, Tulane’s Grant Cleavinger and Omaha’s Rans Sanders. Tyner Horn, a 2023 recruit, decommitted from Wichita State and landed with the Huskers.
Staff changes have helped those additions happen. Nebraska fired pitching coach Jeff Christy after the season’s conclusion, moving Rob Childress into the position soon after. Along with that, the Huskers hired Mike Sirianni — who previously was Wichita State’s recruiting coordinator — as an assistant.
Those two have many strengths, according to Bolt, but he emphasized their recruiting abilities. The head coach said that there’s more talent in college baseball now than in recent years, and the program needs to keep up to not only make it back into regionals, but the goal of making the College World Series.
“I’m really excited about the staff that we have in place and their ability, honestly, their track record in terms of player acquisition is pretty significant, and player development is pretty significant as well,” Bolt said. “So yeah, we’re really excited about the future of where it’s going.”