From 2005-2009, Evan Porter was the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s do-it-all shortstop. A two-time All-American, Porter left UNO as a career .372 hitter, while smashing 43 home runs and holding the most all-time by a Maverick. He also holds UNO’s career records for total bases (527), doubles (75), runs batted in (249) and hits in a season (97).
For fans, reminiscing on the renowned career Porter had may stir up feelings of success. As a player, Porter and UNO made it to the 2007 NCAA Division II College World Series. In addition, Porter was part of two Maverick teams (2006, 2008) that set a school record with 45 wins. During his career, UNO made four straight NCAA regional appearances and won the 2008 NCC championship.
That all ended in 2009 when he graduated. It’s now 2016, and Porter is back to deliver some of that same success; this time at the Division I level. Porter’s role, however, won’t be diving in the hole to prevent a single, or clearing the bases with a line-drive in the gap. Instead, you will find him leading from the dugout.
After four years as an assistant, Porter was introduced as the new head coach in 2016 for the UNO baseball team after the firing of longtime coach, Bob Herold.
Evan Porter, used the words “shocked” and “surprised” to describe his initial reaction to getting the call to be the head coach at UNO. He quickly realized he had some big shoes to fill, in place of the 17-year tenure of Herold.
It is now Porter’s team. Even though he had just been propelled to a head-coaching job far before he could have imagined, he still kept a humble perspective.
“I was fortunate enough to get the chance to play and coach with [Coach Herold],” Porter said. “He is one of the most passionate and energetic guys for the game of baseball I’ve ever been around and has taught me so much.”
Luckily for Porter, he has some talented veterans to assist him.
The leadership of this team comes from the two Sam’s. Seniors, Sam Murphy and Sam Palensky, have led this young group through the off-season. Porter said Murphy and Palensky were tremendous in helping him get the team together as a unit.
Both players and coaches know the beginning of this season is going to be an uphill battle. On Feb. 17, the team will play its first game against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on UNLV’s home field. Unfortunately up to this point, the baseball team has only been able to practice outside once this year due to inclement weather.
UNO will play its first four games against teams that have been able to get outside year-round. This could lead to an unequal playing field for the Mavericks early in the season. This is something Sam Murphy is all too familiar with.
“Since I have been here, we haven’t started the season well— sometimes it takes time,” Murphy said.
Like Murphy, Porter isn’t as worried about his first start to a sea-son as the head coach either.
“It’s not about wins and losses, it’s about growing as a team and getting ‘hot’ at the right time,” Porter said. “The purpose of the earlier part of this is to establish roles for each player on the team.”
Being such a young team, it’s not easy to judge the potential this team has. Replacing Tyler Fox, the 2016 Summit League Pitcher of the year, as well as Clayton Taylor—Summit League Player of the year—would be hard on any program.
“Relying on the young guys is what we are going to have to do at some point this season, so they have to be ready to play their role,” Porter said.
One of those young guys who Porter thinks could be a real impact this year is freshman Cole Thibodeau.
“He runs like a deer, and really could do damage on the basepaths because he is smart when he plays.” Porter said.
For UNO, the process stays the same even with a new face leading the Mavericks. Porter realizes the season is a marathon, not a sprint. The team will have time to find its identity before the grueling stretch of conference season.
Maverick fans will be watching UNO baseball in a new era. Replacing a long-time head coach is never easy, but one thing is for sure: Evan Porter sure has a bit of winning experience himself.