Matt Waldron was golfing as the major league draft continued to play out Wednesday.
The Omaha Westside product pitched his last game for Nebraska on Saturday, saw his collegiate career end Sunday in an NCAA regional and processed coach Darin Erstad’s surprise resignation Monday.
This was the best news of the bunch: The Cleveland Indians drafted him in the 18th round (550th overall).
“Obviously, I was a little nervous and I saw the number get higher and higher,” Waldron said. “But I believed it was going to happen at some point and I’m glad it did.”
As it turned out, Waldron was the only Husker player or recruit/signee to be drafted in the 40 rounds and 1,217 picks that concluded Wednesday. It marks the 27th straight year with a Husker player selected, though only two other times in that span did one player go (1996, 2013).
Nebraska coaches had expressed concern that their incoming recruiting class could be lightened by the draft, including power-hitting Georgia infielder Luke Boynton. NU junior reliever Robbie Palkert also was a candidate after compiling a 3.19 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 36 2⁄3 innings.
Other possible seniors who didn’t see their name pop up included left-hander Nate Fisher and infielder Angelo Altavilla. But Waldron did.
He had swung between starting and relieving throughout his college career and took over as the team’s Friday ace this spring. The right-hander known for wearing a distinct red glove throws a fastball, change-up, slider and curveball, and features one of the quickest pickoff moves in the country.
An uptick in fastball velocity from around 88 to 92 mph allowed him to be even more effective as a senior. He finished his final campaign with a 3.05 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 93-7 in 100 1⁄3 innings.
“I think at some point, if I keep working at it, my abilities could translate (to pro ball),” Waldron said. “At this very moment I think there’s definitely a difference in talent at the next level, so I gotta continue to work to reach that next level. I think it’s possible for sure, but it won’t be a handout.”
Waldron finishes his Husker career third in innings pitched (300 1⁄3) and fourth in strikeouts (253). In his last game, he fanned a career-high 11 against No. 9 national seed Oklahoma State.
“I think I’m ready for this next chapter as well,” Waldron said. “I will say it will be different without some of the baseball guys on our team, but I think I’ll be ready for it pretty soon.”
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