By Avery Wenck, Sports Editor
The University of Nebraska at Omaha men’s baseball team enters its last year of Division I transition looking to win its third regular season title in a row. Head Coach Bob Harold’s men have won the regular season title every year since they’ve joined and have been picked by the Summit League as favorites to “three-peat.” The Mavericks finished last season with a record of 31-20 as well as 15-9 in conference play. UNO is given a huge boost this season with the vast majority of indispensable award-winners returning. Cole Gruber, Tyler Fox, Daniel Jewett, Alex Schultz and Clayton Taylor were all recognized as All-Summit players last year and will be returning to the team this year. Along with these five, Omaha will have 19 letter-winners returning, an astounding amount for a new Division I program. Junior right-handed ace Fox will anchor the Maverick pitching staff this year after a fantastic 2014 season. Fox finished with a 9-1 record and was named Summit League Pitcher of the Year. Fox’s ERA was the second-lowest among starting pitchers while starting the most games with 13. Fox leads most statistical ranks for the Mavericks and will be hoping to continue right where he left off last season. The Maverick pitching as a whole was a positive last season and will be key to the team’s success this season. Their staff had a collective 3.77 ERA at the conclusion of the season and rotated well as a squad, only having three complete games the whole season. Steven Schoonover completed the starting rotation and led the team in ERA with 1.58 in nine starts and had the only three complete games on the season. Relief pitching is an area the Mavericks will need to address. Coming into the season there are a lot of questions as to what arms will handle the final 3-4 innings. Omaha has brought in a nice batch of pitchers this season to challenge for those spots, but that decision is still up in the air.Last season the setup men were strong and led by players like Dylan Casey, Sam Murphy, Zach Eden, Anthony Falcone and Josh Bullock. Casey led those pitchers with a .72 ERA in 14 appearances. All players recorded at least one save, although Falcone and Bullock led with four and five saves, respectively. Hitting has not been an issue for Omaha since their transition to Division I and certainly wasn’t last year either. Omaha had six players hitting over .300 last year and will be looking for the same contributions this season. Junior second baseman Clayton Taylor is undoubtedly a player Omaha can look to for big hits in big situations. He led most statistical categories for the Mavericks and looks to be a sure-fire major leaguer when he’s done playing college ball. He led the team in batting average with .342, slugging percent, hits, RBI’s, doubles and total bases. Without Caleb Palensky and Tyler Splichal, Harold will be looking for other players to fill those positions in the lineup. Both players hit over .300 last season and contributed a combined 58 RBI’s.Players like Alex Schultz, Daniel Jewett and Cole Gruber will definitely be able to perform and will need to play important roles if the Mavericks are to score many runs this year. All three had impressive stats at the plate last season and led in some category. Consistent hitting will be necessary for success this year, and these hitters can provide that. Omaha will start their season on the road for a little under a month before starting their home schedule. They will travel on the road to Phoenix to play Bradley, Grand Canyon and conference opponent North Dakota State in the GCU Classic from February 13-15. They will then go to Atlanta to play a three-game series against Chicago State on the weekend of February 20 before playing Wichita State on the way home that Tuesday. The Mavericks then have their busiest spell of the season as they play six games in four days from Thursday, February 26 through March 1. They will travel to Port Charlotte, Florida for the Snowbird Classic. Conference play has shifted this season from double headers to three game series. Omaha will open their home schedule and play from March 6 to the 22nd against North Dakota, South Dakota State and North Dakota State. UNO will go on the road to take on Kansas State and preseason No. 2 Oral Roberts before returning home to take on in-state rival Nebraska at Werner Park. Omaha lost their two games against Nebraska last season by a combined score of 21-7. Another two weeks on the road will follow and Omaha will play Nebraska after a series with Fort Wayne and Creighton away after one with South Dakota State. Fort Wayne and Oral Roberts will then travel to Omaha before the Mavericks hit the road for the final time against Western Illinois and North Dakota State. Omaha will then return home to close out their regular season against Incarnate Word.
A big positive in this team is their commitment to community service. The team has a great faith and have the drive to give back to their community in any way they can.