Matt Waldron was golfing as the Major League Baseball 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 NU coach Darin Erstad’s surprise resignation Monday.
This was the best news of the bunch: The Cleveland Indians had 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 across the 40 rounds and 1,217 picks that concluded Wednesday afternoon. It marks a 27th straight year with a Husker player selected, though only twice in that span did just 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 was also a candidate after compiling a 3.19 earned-run average and 37 strikeouts in 36⅔ innings.
Other possible seniors who didn’t see their name pop up include left-hander Nate Fisher and infielder Angelo Altavilla.
But Waldron did. The NU grad 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, changeup, 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 ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio of 93-7 in 100⅓ 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 ranked third in innings pitched (300⅓) 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.”