2022 College Top 25 Preview: No. 20 Nebraska
Last season: 34-14 (31-12 in Big Ten), reached regionals
Final ranking: No. 20
Coach (record at school): Will Bolt (41-22, two years)
The good news: Nebraska last season won the Big Ten title, finishing 3.5 games ahead of second-place Maryland. The Cornhuskers now take aim at a second straight title with plenty of experience on the roster. Their rotation of righthanders Shay Schanaman and Dawson McCarville and lefthander Kyle Perry, as well as closer Jake Bunz, are all in their fourth or fifth season of college baseball. While all are taking on new and bigger roles in 2022, they all have pitched in big spots already. More good news comes at the opposite end of the experience spectrum, as Nebraska brought in the Big Ten’s best recruiting class. Its top newcomer is righthander Drew Christo, who has the stuff to take on a significant role, but there’s even more depth among position players and Nebraska will call on some of those young players like infielder Core Jackson and slugger Josh Caron to join third baseman Max Anderson, the 2021 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, in the lineup.
The bad news: The Huskers lost shortstop/closer Spencer Schwellenbach and ace Cade Povich in the draft, with both players selected in the top 100 picks. Schwellenbach, who earned All-American honors as a two-way player, is especially difficult to replace because of his dual role. Brice Matthews will shift from second base to shortstop, where he’s a good defender, and Bunz will now take the ball at the end of games. He last season led Nebraska in appearances (20) and pitched in a lot of big moments as a setup man. The Cornhuskers also must replace leading hitter Jaxon Hallmark, who did a bit of everything offensively. With Schwellenbach and Hallmark gone, Nebraska will need some hitters to step up around Anderson and fourth-year outfielder Cam Chick.
Player to know: Max Anderson, 3B
Anderson was named the 2020 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in high school. He made an instant impact on the Cornhuskers lineup as a freshman, hitting .332/.386/.500 with seven home runs and was named Big Ten freshman of the year. Now, with Schwellenbach and Hallmark in pro ball, the lineup will center on Anderson. He does a good job of making consistent contact and has solid power potential.
Path to Omaha: Nebraska’s experience on the mound, the combination of Anderson and Chick in the middle of the order and its talented newcomers give it the firepower to repeat as Big Ten champions, something that hasn’t happened since Indiana did so in 2013-14. To play deeper into June, the Cornhuskers will need to have developed a dynamic offense. With their biggest power and speed threats moving on to pro ball, they will have to create new ways to score runs quickly—always a key against the high-level pitching seen in the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska has the talent on the roster to build that kind of offense, but developing its young players will be crucial.
Bridging The Gap: Making A Safe Transition From Amateur To Professional Baseball
Alan Jaeger breaks down how pitchers can make a safe transition to pro baseball in a way that benefits both the individual and team.
HS—Sun Prairie, Wisc.