UNO baseball

UNO celebrates its conference tournament championship in 2019, and the Mavericks had high hopes for a repeat before the 2020 season was canceled in March.

Evan Porter expects next spring's UNO baseball lineup to have a familiar look.

The Maverick coach happily points out that eight of this year's nine seniors are coming back. They plan to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA after this season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We told them we'd support them either way. We're fortunate to have most of them coming back," Porter said. "They were a big part of the regional team we had last year and I think it's great we can have them back for another year and they can have their senior year in the new stadium."

Those seniors include the 2019 team's top three RBI producers — Parker Smejkal, Keil Krumwiede and Brett Bonar — as well as Breyden Eckhout, who was second on the team with a .293 batting average. Another senior, Jacob Mohler, recorded five saves in 14 games during this year's abbreviated season.

Porter said the only senior moving on is reliever Jacob Alcorn, who has a job lined up back home in California.

A year ago this weekend, those Mavericks were playing in the NCAA tournament. After knocking off Summit League favorite Oral Roberts to win the conference tournament for the first time, UNO headed to Los Angeles to play UCLA, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed.

The Mavericks were eliminated after losses to UCLA and Baylor, but Porter and his team realized the significance of qualifying for the tournament.

"That was a wonderful weekend to be a part of. There was so much excitement and positive energy throughout the whole week," Porter said. "That was a good step as far as where we want to go as a program.

"We're doing our best to keep moving forward and making sure that's not the pinnacle of where our program is going."

UNO players were focused this spring on building more momentum. And the Mavericks had a solid start to 2020 before things were shut down, winning their last six games to go 10-4. That included an 8-1 win at Creighton in what turned out to be the last game of the season.

"We were set up to have a great year," Porter said.

He calls losing this season a "gut-wrenching feeling," but he knows it was the right call. So instead of being around his team all spring, he's been staying in touch remotely.

"We'll get there. I just texted out a message to the guys (Friday) that everyday is one day closer to baseball, whenever that may be," Porter said.

"Guys are just doing in-home workouts and playing catch with family members. They're just trying to stay safe right now, that's the biggest priority."

When the Mavericks take the field next spring, they'll do so at their new stadium that's currently being constructed just west of Baxter Arena.

Porter said the new field and last season's success are playing a role in recruiting. The Mavs signed eight recruits in the 2021 class during the fall signing period — all eight are from Nebraska and Iowa, including five from Omaha.

"There's so many great players from Nebraska and Iowa. If we can keep them in the state and in the city of Omaha, with a Maverick on their uniform, I think that's a pretty special thing," Porter said.


The past 10 years of UNO baseball

Gene covers a variety of sports beats for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @geneOWH. Phone: 402-444-1038.

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