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June 2, 2014

Boldt's 2014 stacks up with best NU frosh campaigns

One year ago today, Ryan Boldt's Nebraska career seemed very much in doubt. Though he missed nearly his entire season with a knee injury, Boldt was still listed among the best high school prospects in the country and figured to be selected high in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Luckily for Nebraska, Boldt's knee and signability concerns caused him to fall to the Boston Red Sox in the 22nd round. The outfielder greatly values his education, so despite a late push by Boston, Boldt ended up at Nebraska.

Though the Huskers tried to temper expectations by putting Boldt near the bottom of the lineup early on, it didn't take long for the freshman to rise to leadoff, his natural spot in the order. Nebraska went 22-7 (.758 winning percentage) with Boldt occupying the No. 1 spot. Boldt had 18 multi-hit games, including four games with at least four hits, tying the total for the rest of the team combined.

Boldt's impact wasn't lost on Nebraska's opponents, including Cal State Fullerton's Rick Vanderhook, who called Boldt the best freshman he'd seen in "quite some time."

"Boldt is going to be a first-team All-American and has a chance to win the Golden Spikes, for me," Vanderhook said.

Boldt's campaign drew comparisons to the last Husker phenom - Alex Gordon back in 2005. Gordon would go on to become one of Nebraska's best all-time players before being selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Kansas City Royals. The promising thing for Husker fans is that Gordon's freshman season was very similar to Boldt's:

Ryan Boldt (2014) Alex Gordon (2003)
Games played-started 61-60 62-58
Batting average .311 .319
On-base percentage .382 .426
Slugging percentage .437 .495
Hits 74 69
Runs 47 45
Doubles 12 13
Triples 6 2
Home runs 2 7
Runs batted in 31 48
Walks 25 29
Total bases 104 107
Steals-attempts 7-11 8-17

One of the major difference in the two seasons is Boldt's extended time in the leadoff spot, which gave him fewer RBI opportunities but more chances to score runs than Gordon. Boldt finished the season with more hits, runs and triples than Gordon did.

But Gordon isn't the only Nebraska freshman in recent memory to take college baseball by storm - there are a number of NU neophytes who have put up impressive numbers. Here's how Boldt's 2014 season stacks up with some of the top freshman campaigns of the past 15 years:

Ryan Boldt (2014) Cody Asche (2009) Alex Gordon (2003) Curtis Ledbetter (2003) Daniel Bruce (2002) Matt Hopper (2000) Will Bolt (1999)
Games played-started 61-60 43-33 62-58 53-48 59-46 64-61 59-55
Batting average .311 .290 .319 .348 .299 .352 .278
On-base percentage .382 .336 .426 .395 .419 .439 .331
Slugging percentage .437 .411 .495 .647 .481 .678 .463
Hits 74 36 69 65 56 83 63
Runs 47 20 45 42 53 55 48
Doubles 12 7 13 13 17 14 16
Triples 6 1 2 2 1 0 7
Home runs 2 2 7 13 5 21 4
Runs batted in 31 21 48 54 41 71 43
Walks 25 9 29 16 12 35 18
Total bases 104 51 107 121 90 160 105
Stolen bases-attempts 7-11 3-4 8-17 3-3 5-6 5-5 8-11

Boldt's numbers don't quite match those of some of the top freshman years in recent school history, but he's in the ballpark. And speaking of ballparks, some of these numbers were accumulated in the slightly-smaller dimensions of Buck Beltzer Stadium, Nebraska's home field until 2002. And the bats used by players have become significantly less lethal over the years. Boldt's power numbers would have jumped were he using the launchers wielded by Hopper and Gordon in the early 2000's.

And none of this takes into account Boldt's defense in center field, which ranged from solid to spectacular. There aren't many reliable defensive statistics outside of errors (which obviously vary greatly between infielders and outfielders), but it would be hard for many of the other guys to have the same defensive impact Boldt had in center.

With at least another two seasons in Lincoln, Boldt has plenty of growth left. According to coaches and teammates, he has the work ethic to fulfill his promise. While there is no guarantee that he'll match the career of Gordon or some of his other contemporaries, Boldt is certainly well on his way.

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