Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Baseball

Bolt Among Proponents of Later Start for College Baseball Post-Pandemic

July 24, 2020
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Will Bolt is on-board with Michigan coach Erik Bakich’s proposal to restructure the collegiate baseball season, a cost-effective proposal as recently described in a report by The Detroit News.

Under the proposal, the season wouldn’t begin until the third Friday in March and conclude the third weekend in June, with the College World Series moved to July.

College baseball coaches were proactive in their response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their sport, according to Bolt, who told Hail Varsity’s Derek Peterson: “We’d meet as Big Ten baseball coaches and talk about things and that (Bakich’s proposal) was one of the first things that was brought up, like, ‘OK, this may be the time we strike, while the iron’s hot, to get the season and the model of college baseball to be more beneficial to everybody, not just the northern teams or the southern teams, but everybody in general.’”

Among the motivating factors was the possibility that college football would be forced to move its season to the spring, a scenario that seems less likely now.

Even so, “I think we’re prepared for anything and everything at this point,” said Bolt. “And we all know this whole thing is driven by what happens with football.”

Bolt’s first season as Nebraska’s head coach ended after 15 games, the last an 8-1 victory against Northern Colorado at Hawks Field on March 11. The victory left the Huskers 7-8.

Initially, Bolt thought there was a possibility the season might continue at some point. But when it was clear that wouldn’t happen, “once we had the finality of knowing we’re not going to be playing with this team, I don’t spend any time thinking about what-ifs,” Bolt said.

“As much as you hate to think of it in these terms, the 2020 team is done and will never be seen again, so we’re moving on to the 2021 team.”

Which meant recruiting, “really the main focus the last three months,” said Bolt, has been “shaping the 2021 team and what we’re going to have come the fall this semester, just trying to shape that team in our own eyes. After that first month, that’s pretty much been our sole focus.”

Nebraska announced 10 recruits in November, two in April and four in July, scholarship and walk-on, including eight transfers, four of them pitchers—two from junior colleges, two from four-year schools.

“We really needed to address some things with the pitching,” Bolt said. “We knew we wanted to get a couple of guys who were a little more experienced on the mound to help us in the transition because we had so many young pitchers this year that needed to kind of just get their feet wet.”

The Huskers used 17 pitchers last season—second baseman Jaxon Hallmark made one relief appearance—including five freshmen, a redshirt freshman and six sophomores.

One of the freshmen, Kyle Wisch (one appearance), entered the transfer portal, as did senior Gareth Stroh, who could have returned under an NCAA rule regarding spring-sport athletes.

Otherwise, all of those who took the mound for Nebraska last season could return.

The same is true of 14 of the 16 position players who saw action, four of them seniors: Joe Acker, Luke Roskam, Ty Roseberry and Mojo Hagge. All have indicated they intend to return.

Whether all of the position players, as well as pitchers, who could return do remains to be seen.

A for-certain returnee Is Leighton Banjoff, who led Nebraska with a .341 batting average and .636 slugging percentage and was named to the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America Team.

Aaron Palensky, who started every game the past two seasons and batted .302 with 19 runs-batted-in in 2020, would have returned if not for being drafted and signed by the New York Yankees.

In any case, “we’ve got a fairly big number of guys coming in, bigger than it’ll be any other year, just as we try to shape the roster in the way we feel like is going to be best to help us reach our goals,” Bolt said. “I’m excited. I mean, you’re always going to be excited about the recruiting classes you bring in.

“But this one is special, just because we have a lot of guys who are coming here to try to be part of something special. There’s been a good tradition here of getting to a regional. We feel like we’ve got some guys coming in with aspirations to play regional games back here in Nebraska and have a chance to go to Omaha.”

In the not-too-distant future, such a trip to Omaha might be in July.

That’s the coaches’ proposal.

 
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