Will Bolt had his own game to worry about when right-hander Spencer Schwellenbach first stepped onto a major league mound for the Atlanta Braves at the end of last month. Bolt was holed up on Nebraska baseball’s team bus, winding through the middle of the country on his way to a regional in Oklahoma.

The Nebraska coach also watched from afar when left-hander Cade Povich made his major league debut for the Orioles last week, unable to drop everything so soon after the season ended to travel to Toronto.

He wanted to see them both. Bolt figured, as the college baseball offseason began, he would schedule trips to Atlanta to see Schwellenbach and Baltimore to see Povich to watch his former players live out a dream they had worked hard to achieve at Nebraska.

But the baseball schedule had other ideas. Bolt would need to make only one trip.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“Hey,” Povich texted Bolt, “there’s a pretty good chance that Spence is going to pitch against me.”

Bolt arrived at Camden Yards on Wednesday with a rare opportunity: two MLB teams, two Cornhuskers starting pitchers.

Spencer Schwellenbach of the Atlanta Braves made his third major league start Wednesday against the Orioles at Camden Yards. (Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

“It’ll be surreal,” Bolt said before Wednesday’s game, thinking of the moment he’d see Schwellenbach and Povich straddle the mound. “Just proud. Just proud of those guys and what they’ve been able to accomplish, and what they’ll continue to accomplish at this level.”

By the sixth inning, Bolt — who sat next to Povich’s family — had watched Povich complete a stellar Camden Yards debut. Povich threw six shutout innings and struck out six batters, and while he hit one, he didn’t issue a walk. It was the kind of display that reinforced Bolt’s long-held belief in Schwellenbach and Povich.

Schwellenbach also impressed during his six innings, although the two runs against him put the Orioles in the driver’s seat for a series win.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“We talked yesterday a little bit, just catching up,” Povich said. “We talked after the game as well. It was just awesome, a special moment. I think today it was the first time ever two Huskers have faced each other on the mound, which is special. It was really awesome.”

After their starts, Schwellenbach and Povich exchanged jerseys and took photos on the field together, and with the several Nebraska staffers who made the journey to Baltimore. They texted about their impending start all week, Schwellenbach said.

View post on X

“We need the Big Ten to show out,” Schwellenbach said, “and I feel like we did that tonight.”

In the time Bolt coached Schwellenbach and Povich, he could tell their command of the strike zone and pitch mix could play at the next level.

Povich’s rise to this point may have been more foreseeable, considering Bolt sought Povich out once Nebraska hired the former Cornhuskers shortstop as head coach in 2019. One of his first calls was to Povich, the Nebraska boy who pitched for South Mountain Community College in Arizona at the time.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Nebraska needed starting pitching help. Bolt noticed the stats Povich posted for South Mountain and knew it could translate.

“If you tell Cade you have to do something to get to the next step, he’s gonna do it,” said Kelli Povich, Cade Povich’s mom. “At Nebraska, when they said you have to work and show us to be the Friday guy, he did everything they told him to be the Friday guy.”

At the top of the weekend rotation, Povich recorded a 3.11 ERA in 81 innings in 2021.

Schwellenbach, however, was less of a pitching certainty. The right-hander initially joined Nebraska under coach Darin Erstad with the idea he’d play shortstop, and when Bolt took over the program, the arrangement continued. Schwellenbach hit third in Bolt’s lineups. But Bolt had an idea for how to get even more out of Schwellenbach.

“The conversation for him to pitch was interesting, because he came to Nebraska to prove he could hit and play shortstop,” Bolt said. “I said, ‘Hey, man, you’re still our shortstop. Let’s pick our spots; let’s see how it goes in the fall.’”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The first time Schwellenbach pitched in college came in the fall of 2020 during exhibition games. He hardly threw bullpen sessions but flashed mid-90s velocity with a three-pitch mix anyway.

“This guy is a freak,” Bolt thought, so he used him as a closing pitcher in 2021 on top of Schwellenbach’s batting duties. He won the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year award for his .284 batting average and 0.57 ERA.

Asked whether Schwellenbach wishes he could’ve gotten some swings off Povich like he used to in exhibition games at Nebraska, Schwellenbach had no interest in picking the bat up against his former teammate ever again.

“He kind of diced me up every time I hit off of him at Nebraska, so I didn’t really want an AB anyway,” Schwellenbach said.

He committed to pitching fully when the Braves selected him in the second round of the 2021 draft, one round before the Minnesota Twins picked Povich. A trade brought Povich to Baltimore, and now the former college teammates shared a mound Wednesday night at Camden Yards.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“Big day for Lincoln, Nebraska,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “There will be a lot of people tuning in, I think, in the Midwest to watch tonight’s game.”

It was Povich’s second start for the Orioles after he pitched 5 1/3 innings with six runs against him during his debut against the Blue Jays. It was Schwellenbach’s third start in the majors after covering 9 2/3 innings in two outings.

And it was Bolt’s first time in person seeing his former players at this level.

“You think about it, three years, just like that,” Bolt said. “And I know to them there was a lot of hard work in between what happened at the end of their careers for us and for them to get to this stage. But it’s not surprising to me, given their level of talent. And, really, their level of professionalism they displayed, even in college. I thought both of those guys had the right stuff to be big leaguers, and it’s awesome. It’s special.”