LUBBOCK, Texas – Playing just 15 games in 2020, the college baseball world didn’t get to see the full effects of change that were going on in the Nebraska baseball program under first-year head coach and former team captain Will Bolt.
One of those changes was to make practices so hard that the games would seem easy. Another of those changes was to take one of the team’s best position players and put him in a position to make an impact not only at the plate and in the field but on the mound as well.
Junior Spencer Schwellenbach grasped that new role with both hands, and his efforts this season were a major reason the Cornhuskers captured the Big Ten title and returned to the NCAA postseason for just the second time since 2017. Along the way, Schwellenbach racked up the honors as well, becoming the first Nebraska player since Alex Gordon in 2005 to be named conference player of the year when the Cornhuskers still played in the Big 12.
He also established himself as one of the top dual-threat players in the nation, and his prowess both on the mound and at the plate, as well as his leadership skills, are the reason he is the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award winner for 2021.
“Every year, the quality of athletes in college baseball makes it harder and harder to narrow down to a winner for this award,” said George Watson, chairman of the John Olerud Award selection committee.” Each of our five finalists was deserving of this award. In the end, what set Spencer apart was not only his ability to have an impact in every game for the Cornhuskers, but his leadership in helping guide Nebraska to the top of the Big Ten and a berth in the NCAA postseason. We are excited to see what the future holds for him and are proud to have him represent the John Olerud Award.”
The award is named for the former Washington State University standout who achieved success both as a first baseman and left-handed pitcher during the late 1980s and who was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. The award will be presented by the College Baseball Foundation during the virtual Night of Champions event June 26.
A team captain for the Cornhuskers, Schwellenbach made the most of his first season back to playing both ways since high school. After getting his arm healthy and in shape during the summer, he showed immediately he would be an impact for his team both on the mound and at the plate.
When in the field, Schwellenbach held down shortstop for Nebraska and did it well. In 48 games during a challenging 2021 season, he hit .284 with six home runs and 40 RBI. He compiled a .862 OPS and fielded at a .981 clip while going a perfect 9-for-9 in stolen bases.
On the mound, Schwellenbach was stellar as the Cornhuskers’ closer. He made 18 appearances on the season and played a role in the decision in 14 of those 18 appearances, going 3-1 with 10 saves. In 31.2 innings he allowed just two runs for a 0.57 ERA and walked just eight batters while striking out 34. Teams hit just .198 off of Schwellenbach.
In addition to winning the Olerud Award and being Big Ten Player of the Year, Schwellenbach also is a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which honors the best player in college baseball, and was named second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
A native of Saginaw, Michigan, Schwellenbach is pursuing a degree in supply chain management and comes from a baseball family. His brother Jordan is an assistant coach at Central Methodist University and another brother, Mason, just completed his senior season at the NAIA school.
For more information on the College Baseball Foundation’s John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, visit www.collegebaseballhall.org.
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