The Nebraska Baseball program was riding a huge wave of momentum in 2022. They won 34 games in 2021, I took the Number 1 overall seed to the edge of the cliff and almost knocked them off, but couldn’t finish the job. The Big Ten freshmen of the year was returning, along with the entire infield, and Colby Gomes was returning off an injury fresh and ready to go for 2022. Will Bolt and company had to replace a lot of departing seniors and leadership but that did not stop practically every publication from picking this new look team to still repeat as league champions.
Then, the first weekend happened, and the team dropped three of four. No cause for panic yet, northern teams always seem to start slow in college baseball.
The second weekend happened. The team got swept, dropped to 1-6 – and looked every bit like a 1-6 team in the process.
The schedule lightened up a little. The team won three of four the next weekend, and they might have been getting it going again. The home opening series was canceled, due to weather – even though I don’t recall it being cold that weekend. They split the replacement games. Injuries started to happen, ones that could change the trajectory of the season. The whole season was one step forward, three steps back and they just never really were able to get going, and it became abundantly clear to anybody watching – the fans, the coaching staff, and probably even some of the players that a roster overhaul was coming.
The team finished 23-30 overall, 10-14 in conference play and didn’t even make the Big Ten tournament as the host school. That’s a bad look for any program, no matter how you try and frame it. Have no fear, this coaching staff has a plan.
I, like most fans, got impatient this year, and quite frankly stopped tuning in about halfway through the year for a little bit. The recruiting class is full of junior college players, and a few Division I transfers have already committed. Junior College, while not high major, is still collegiate experience and seasoning. The team was starting four freshmen in games at times this year. The pitching staff, specifically the bullpen was throwing out five more freshmen, and some were just not ready to pitch at this level. Kyle Perry unfortunately had another season ending injury and you certainly wish the best for him. The workhorse, Jake Bunz, got hurt the first weekend of the year and missed the rest of the season, and there was just nobody to take those innings as the year went.
It’s clear the coaching staff wants collegiate experience already on their team. That matters, especially when it comes to postseason time. Experience is experience, look at Notre Dame. They made the CWS and their entire lineup is mostly seniors and grad transfers. Experience. Matters.
That’s not to say there isn’t talented freshmen coming in next year, there still is, but this staff has clearly started to emphasize experience on both sides of the ball. There is obviously no guarantee it will work. Next year could even be worse than this one given the fact the 2023 Husker Baseball team might be all new. Look at how Fred Hoiberg has “built” his teams. It sure looks like it’s just bodies in places to me. That’s not the way to build a team, and his results – or lack thereof – show that, we’re still rooting for you Fred.
Speaking of which, I will never understand for the life of me how that hire did not work out. The dude has won everywhere he’s been and knows more basketball than most people have forgotten in their life. Something just hasn’t clicked, but it happens. The football team? Well, they’re still just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing if it sticks. Having a plan in place is step 1, step 2 is executing the plan to success. There are no excuses next year, Will Bolt. You’re not “really young,” you’re not “replacing a lot” (they are but that can’t be an excuse anymore), because this is the team YOU chose. The 2023 team is the team Bolt and company wanted, and now they need to go put it in motion on the field again. Give fans something to cheer about again, because we’re still desperate for sustained success in anything.