The Nebraska baseball team is on the road this weekend to face Wichita State. First pitch of the series is set for 3 p.m. Friday. The Huskers enter the weekend at 5-3 on the season, which is the best start in eight games under head coach Darin Erstad, but the seventh-year head man still sees plenty of room for improvement.
“We pretty much got suffocated by Oregon State twice (last weekend),” Erstad said. “They came out and take it to us. We did rebound and find a way to win, and right now, we’re not exactly clicking on all cylinders, which at this time of year, a lot of people probably say the same things.”
This will be the first true road series for the Huskers, who played at neutral sites during the first two weekends. Wichita’s Eck Stadium is considered to be one of the top facilities in college baseball. It can seat more than 7,800 people, and it features the “Coleman Hill” out in right-center field, where fans are allowed to bring their own food, beverages and grills to this pavilion area that features grass seating along with two covered, split-level, hardwood decks.
Erstad says the fans out in the pavilion offer their opponents, a “warm” greeting.
“For us, it’s the first true road games,” Erstad said. “You’re actually getting a home crowd that is going to be nice and welcoming. Especially down there, they have some nice fans out in right field that are ready to go. They’re loose. It’s a great experience. I love those types of atmospheres.”
Senior Luis Alvarado (0-0, 2.53 ERA) will climb the hill for his third start of the season Friday. He’s been solid so far through 10.2 innings of work, striking out a team-high 14 batters while walking only three.
Junior Nate Fischer (0-1, 5.14 ERA) will start for Nebraska on Saturday, while senior Matt Warren (1-0, 2.53 ERA) will take the mound on Sunday.
The Huskers will be without their usual Saturday starter, lefty Jake McSteen, who hurt his throwing arm in the fourth inning of Saturday’s 10-3 loss to No. 2 Oregon State.
Currently, there’s no timetable for his return.
“The ligament is intact,” Erstad said. “It’s not a slam dunk case as it has been with some of those other guys, but he has a decision to make, whether to rehab or have surgery. We haven’t come to that conclusion yet, or he hasn’t come to that conclusion quite yet.”
Nebraska has already lost juniors Robbie Palkert, Chad Luensmann and redshirt freshman Connor Curry for the season to injury. Junior Reece Eddins is still making his way back from injury.
With that attrition, Nebraska will have to rely on the arms of juniors Mitch Steinhoff, Bryon Hood, Zack Engelken, Matt Waldron and freshmen Andrew Abrahamowicz, Max Schreiber, and Paul Tillotson.
“I’ll give them a lot of credit,” Erstad said. “They could have easily shot away from the strike zone in that first game (against Oregon State) and they didn’t. We only walked two guys. We gave up a ton of singles (10), but they kept pounding the zone. That’s what we asked out of them, and that’s a good place to start.”
Wichita State is off to a 6-0 start this year with sweeps over UNO and McNeese State. Freshman Saturday starter Liam Eddy is 2-0 this year with a 1.42 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 12.2 innings.
Offensively, junior infielder Alec Bohm is batting a remarkable .550 (11-for-20) with a team-high eight RBIs. He also has two home runs. Junior outfielder/first baseman Greyson Jenista is a preseason All-American and leads the team with three home runs.
“This looks like that team that (fifth-year head coach Tony Butler) has that could all of the pieces together and be very successful,” Erstad said. “I know that they’re going to get their swings off by having a nice breeze blowing out to left field, so we’ll probably take some blows, but we’ve just got to make quality pitches and hopefully hit a few balls ourselves.”
Nebraska begins its home schedule next Thursday against Cal Poly.
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