HuskerOnline.com caught up with Nebraska assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, Lance Harvell, to get his thoughts and reflections on the recently concluded baseball season.
He also looked forward to what is in store and next on tap for the Husker program under Will Bolt and his coaching staff.
Our latest Q & A with Coach Harvell is below:
When we were talking at the beginning of the season, you really liked your team. But did even you expect it to go this far in essentially year one?
LH: “Pretty much, yeah, I did. I don’t think anyone in our circle, that was there day in and day out seeing the work we were putting in and the personnel we had, didn’t think this was possible. That’s probably what allowed us to do what we did. Everybody was counting us out or not giving us anything. We knew what we had and we didn’t need anyone’s accolades or recognition.
“We were just going to show up, compete, and play. So, I don’t know that anybody on our team, including myself, was shocked. We knew what was in front of us and we knew we could do it. It was just a matter of going and taking it and we did that. We really don’t feel like it was some sort of a magic season where the stars all aligned. We feel like it was legit and we knew this was possible, so we went out and worked for it. We just went and did it.”
To what do you attribute the team’s ability to overcome so much adversity to where you had the slogan “We Don’t Care.”
LH: “I think a couple things really contributed to it. The two things that really stood out to me were the leadership of Coach (Will) Bolt, and then the willingness of our guys to buy into our message and what we were trying to instill in them. Which is exactly that: when everybody else is willing to make an excuse for you and for themselves, don’t do it! Don’t fall into that trap!
“Don’t make a single excuse. Just show up every day and be your competitive best. Whatever that looks like, do that today. Just keep showing up. And people saw that, which is why I think we kind of captured people’s hearts and inspired people. It was why we were such a fun team to watch. Just because they had that relentless spirit. It didn’t matter who it was, where it was, what the conditions were, what the situation was; we were just going to keep showing up.
“There were times on the coaching staff when we would just sit back and watch them and let them go. For us, as with the fans, they were a fun group to watch and to coach every day. They bought into that consistent message and were just willing to do it. So, those were the two things that contributed more than anything.”
Who were the key leaders on the team this year among the players?
LH: “Jaxon Hallmark first and foremost for me. He was just, from a talent and personality standpoint, the straw that stirred the drink. He was always mixing it up and keeping everybody loose. He had the right attitude. He really embodied the attitude of this team and kind of set the tone every day.
“Also, Joe Acker. Really, it was a lot of the older guys having such good years in different ways. Hallmark had a career year. Joe Acker probably had the best year of his career. Also, (Luke) Roskam and (Spencer) Schwellenbach, obviously. You’ve also got guys like (Cade) Povich. And all of them did it in different ways.
“I mean, Chance Hroch, even if he doesn’t put up All-American type numbers, just being a veteran presence for not only just the younger pitchers, but all our pitchers. He just brought some of that calmness and wisdom, and he was always taking guys under his wing. I wouldn’t be shocked if he was a coach one day, just because he’s got that kind of ability and knack for teaching guys.
“All those guys did it in different ways: either doing it by example or by not being afraid to be vocal or even have a little confrontation when you need it. Or just being a guy like Schwellenbach and going out and doing it all. Doing whatever the team needs him to do. That kind of stuff really embodied the team and it set the tone for the future. The culture was where we wanted it this year and set the tone for the future of the program.”
Can you touch upon Spencer Schwellenbach and how deserving he is of all the postseason awards he has received.
LH: “First of all, that kid is exceptionally talented. He’s a REALLY good baseball player, as people know. People look at it and believe he deserves all the awards and accolades because he had a good year, but for me working backwards from that, that kid deserved to have a good year and the season he had because of the work he put in and just his maturity process. I mean, that kid grew up so much on and off the field — emotionally, physically, mentally, and every part of it. So, I’m glad to see that he’s getting some of the awards and recognition that he’s getting because he deserved every bit of it. We don’t do what we did without him, that’s for sure.”
I’m sure you’re prepared to lose him in the MLB Draft.
LH: “Oh yeah! I don’t know that we would let him come back if he wanted to. Well, maybe we would, but from a business standpoint there are a lot of zeros he’s going to have to turn down to come back to school. I don’t see that happening. I think he’s going to be moving on to greener pastures.”
Do you expect to lose anyone else to the Draft?
LH: “I would say Povich probably, if I was a betting man. He’s probably gone. We expected that. Those guys who have put themselves in position to be drafted have earned it 100%. Now, he’s got a set number and a set game plan going into this thing, and he’s not going to go for just peanuts. There are a lot of people out there who like him high enough to pay him what he wants.
“After that, we’ll have to see. There’s a couple high school incoming guys among our signees, Drew Christo and Chase Mason, that we are having ongoing conversations with about the Draft and having a lot of education for them, as far as what they should expect and what they need to do. So, we’ll see what happens with them. The tough part is the Draft got pushed back and it is still three weeks away, so if you end up losing somebody like that they’re going to be tough to replace in such a short window before school starts.”
Hypothetically, if you do not lose anybody from your incoming 2021 recruiting class, does the staff still plan to add some additional players to the roster for next season?
LH: “Yeah. Conservatively, I would say, we will probably add two more guys, and maybe three. Right now, the highest priority is pitching, especially right-handed pitching. Then maybe looking to add a middle of the lineup type of guy. Something like that. We’re scouring that transfer portal and keeping up with it. We’ve reached out to some guys and we’re in touch with some guys, so before it’s all said and done, I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s three new additions. And then it could be potentially more than that, depending on how the Draft goes.
“But we’re in a good spot because you reap what you sow. Because we had such a good year, there’s a lot of interest out there right now for Nebraska baseball with recruits.”
Talk about that a little. What has the reception been like for the staff with recruits, as well as the interaction with other coaches and the Husker fans in public after the incredibly successful season you just completed?
LH: “Yeah, it’s been good. Obviously, just like anybody in any other situation, you like getting a little recognition for a job well done. But the thing you’ve got to keep in mind and keep your head about is that it’s not over and you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to. Everybody tells us we had such a great year, but we’re quick to correct them and tell them, ‘we had a good year, not a great year.’ In a great year, we’d still be getting ready to play here in a couple days.
“You also don’t want to take away from what we did this year. That’s exactly what we told the team after our last game in Arkansas about where we’re at as a program right now and where we’re headed in the future. That talk about what we did has to become the norm. This isn’t a flash in the pan type of deal. It needs to get to the point where we are hosting Regionals and Super Regionals, and to have a chance to play in the World Series and go win it.
“There’s no resting on laurels or sitting back on your heels. We have to go out and aggressively hit the road recruiting, and if you’ve got to go and shake some bushes to get the right guys, you’ve just got to go do that. That’s what we’re in the process of doing right now. With the interest that’s out there, and people wanting to come and be a part of something special that’s going on here, you still have to kind of stick to your roots and your plan. There might be a guy out there who’s really good, but he’s not a good fit for the program. You’ve got to stick to the blueprint and get the right guys in here.”
You mentioned wanting to host Regionals and Super Regionals in future seasons, so when you were down in Arkansas were you paying attention to their stadium, facilities and amenities for baseball? It seems as if Nebraska, which was once among the gold standard for college baseball programs, has been surpassed by several SEC schools. Are there any plans to upgrade Haymarket Park to bring it more up to the standards of current excellence?
LH: “There were actually some plans already in place when we got here. Some plans for renovations and additions. So, we’ll kind of see where we’re at with that with the administration and get on the same page as them. I know they’ve got a big project over at the football program that they are doing right now, which is pretty impressive. But yeah, there’s some talks right now of doing something down the road. How soon that is, who knows? We are at least having those conversations right now. We’ve discussed it and we will see where we land with it all.”
Taking the Draft out of the discussion, who do you know for certain will not be returning among the players who have either exhausted their eligibility or will just be moving on to other opportunities?
LH: “For certain, all the COVID seniors. Obviously. So, guys like Mojo Hagge, Acker, Hroch, Roskam. Max Schreiber is going to move on. Trey Kissack is going to move on. Gunner Hellstrom is going to move on with life, and we’re actually trying to get him to join our coaching staff next year. He’s kind of going back and forth on that.”
Which players are going to be shut down and not playing summer baseball?
LH: “Most everybody is out playing right now. The guys who are shut down are Shay Schanaman, Kyle Perry, Jake Bunz, Koty Frank. I think that’s about it. Pretty much 90% of the guys are all playing right now all over the country. We’ve got guys going to the Cape, North Woods, and the Coastal Plain leagues. They are spread out all over.”
And what about the coaching staff? What you guys going to be doing this summer?
LH: “Oh, you know, playing golf and hanging out by the pool [laughing]. No, we’ve been out on the road ever since we got back [from Arkansas]. We had a day and a half of exit meetings with each player, and then we hit the road. We’ve already been crisscrossing the country a little bit. We’ve been to South Dakota, Michigan, back and forth to Omaha a few times. I’m back in Arkansas this week, and Coach (Jeff) Christy is in Milwaukee this weekend, and then going over to Indiana. It’s been fast and furious.
“After being off the road for over 400 days, we’re kind of making up for lost time. The recruiting and getting guys on board didn’t stop, but having to be creative and do it all on video can be scary. Not having to actually get to see guys in person for over a year. So, this summer is cross-checking ourselves and getting to see some of these commitments play. We will be tracking down some of these guys in the transfer portal to see them play in some of these collegiate leagues; and then go and watch some of the ’22s, ’23s and ’24s who are on our Board.”
It must be nice doing all this with the wind at your back.
LH: “It is, yes. It is. Now the good problem to have is keeping the momentum going. So that’s what we’ve got to do. We know what’s in front of us and what we’ve got to get done, and we’re anxious to go do it.”
Do you plan to attend any College World Series games? Or do you plan to wait until you get there as a team?
LH: “No, no, I’m not going. The only other time I’ve been before was back when I was in college. My buddy just happened to have free tickets, so we road tripped it one weekend and watched a couple games. That’s when it was still at Rosenblatt and it was pretty cool. It was a night game, and it was Arkansas vs. Texas, so I thought ‘this is pretty cool.’ Regardless of any affiliations or whatever, this is about as good as it gets right here. It was pretty cool.
“I will probably catch some of it on TV in between ballgames and at the hotel if I’m on the road. Something like that. It’s always good to see where you want to go, and to see what it takes to get there.”