The Nebraska baseball team (12-9) begins its Big Ten schedule this weekend with a three-game series against Minnesota (14-8) at Haymarket Park. First pitch on Friday is set for 4:05 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday’s game both start at 2 p.m.
The Huskers just wrapped up non-conference play on Wednesday by splitting a midweek series at Oral Roberts. Nebraska lost Tuesday 6-2 before holding on for an 11-10 win in a Wednesday afternoon game that was anything but smooth.
Nebraska blew a 5-1 lead and fell behind 8-6 in the sixth inning before posting three runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth to retake the lead. Senior Jake Hohensee put down the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to preserve victory.
The season’s been something of a roller coaster ride for Nebraska, who is 0-5 in series openers, but a perfect 4-0 in series closers.
The Huskers are still trying to figure out how to open a series with the same amount of energy they show when they close one.
“You come out, you’re excited and probably playing a little too fast and you settle in,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “It’s just about getting to that game speed before the first game. We’re not doing anything different going into those games, we treat every game exactly the same, but for whatever reason, that’s how it’s been playing out.”
So, how does Erstad describe the season up to this point?
“Surviving,” he said. “I mean, it’s been up and down. We’ve played well in stretches and not so well in stretches. Obviously, still trying to figure out how we’re going to get guys out on the mound on a consistent basis, but the fight’s there. Again, starting conference play or non-conference play, I don’t change the way we go about our business.”
Nebraska has juniors Reece Eddins and Jake McSteen on the mend in the bullpen. Eddins was tossing in the bullpen Tuesday and could be back as soon as this weekend. There’s still no timetable on McSteen’s return.
Even when those two are fully back, Nebraska will still be without three pitchers (Connor Curry, Chad Luensmann, Robbie Palkert) for the remainder of the season.
This means guys like freshmen Max Schreiber and Andrew Abrahamowicz will continue to see expanded roles. Roles they probably didn’t envision having so soon.
“Buckle up,” Erstad said. “It’s going to be a roller coaster ride. We’re going to have some ups and downs, coming into the seventh inning with the lead and you got your boys just lined who have been there and done that, that’s just not there right now. So, that’s what we have and we’re going to have to find a way to make it work.”
Senior Luis Alvarado (1-1, 2.54 ERA) will start for Nebraska Friday, with junior Matt Waldron (1-1, 4.20 ERA) going on Saturday and senior Matt Warren (3-0, 5.84 ERA) climbing the hill on Sunday.
The Golden Gophers come into Lincoln fresh off a series win over No. 9 TCU in Corpus Christi last weekend. Minnesota won the first game 6-3, lost the second 5-4 in 13 innings and won the third 8-0.
Minnesota comes in with the best team batting average in the Big Ten at .308 and the second-best team ERA at 3.42.
They’re also second in the league in fielding percentage (.978), first in on-base percentage (.407), runs scored (152), hits (239), RBIs (137), and walks (111).
Junior Terrin Vavra leads the Gophers with a .414 batting average, which is third best in the Big Ten. Their most dangerous pitcher is freshman RHP Patrick Frederickson, who’s the Sunday starter, is 2-0 with a 2.44 ERA and a team-high 24 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.
“They have a quality baseball team with a lot of left-handed bats that can really hit,” Erstad said. “They’ve got some great arms on the mound. Just another solid Gopher team and we’ll have our hands full.”
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