On Tuesday afternoon the Big Ten Conference announced that the conference head coaches have tabbed the Nebraska baseball team as the preseason No. 2 team in the league. The Indiana Hoosiers, who finished second in both the regular season and at the conference tournament last season, were selected as the conference favorite in 2013.
Following the Hoosiers and Huskers, the top six was rounded out by Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota and Illinois, respectively.
Three players from each team were also named to the 2013 Big Ten Baseball Player to Watch list, and Nebraska was represented by senior right-handed pitcher Dylan Vogt, junior outfielder Michael Pritchard and junior right-handed pitcher Brandon Pierce.
Nebraska welcomes back 20 letterwinners from last year's team that finished fourth in the conference and advanced to the Big Ten Tournament. Six players earned All-Big Ten honors a year ago, including three first-team selections, while Pritchard was tabbed as a third-team All-American by the NCBWA and is a 2013 preseason second-team All-American pick by the same association.
The Huskers open play this Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., with a 5 p.m. game against the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners. NU then plays a double header at No. 22 Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, before wrapping up the weekend with a game at USC on Sunday.
Overall in 2013, the Huskers play 18 games against 2012 NCAA Tournament teams, including two games against 2012 College World Series qualifier Arkansas at Hawks Field. The series with the Razorbacks marks the third straight year that the Huskers have hosted a CWS team from the previous season, as UCLA visited Lincoln in 2011 and California split a four-game series at Hawks Field last season.
After playing 31 homes games in 2012, the Huskers are set to host 21 games at Hawks Field in 2013, while playing 31 true roads games and two neutral site games at the TD Ameritrade Classic in late April. Head Coach Darin Erstad and his staff worked hard on setting up challenging schedule that gets the team ready for not only the Big Ten schedule, but to also make a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
Nebraska is scheduled to play 19 of its first 24 games on the road. NU's home opener is scheduled for March 1, when its hosts New Mexico for a three-game series.
2013 BIG TEN BASEBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kevin Johnson, Sr., SP, Illinois
Jordan Parr, Jr., OF, Illinois
Justin Parr, Sr., OF, Illinois
Joey DeNato, Jr., SP, Indiana
Kyle Schwarber, So., C/OF/DH, Indiana
Sam Travis, So., 1B/OF, Indiana
Sasha Kuebel, So., SP, Iowa
Dan Sheppard, Sr., C, Iowa
Jake Yacinich, So., SS, Iowa
Ben Ballantine, Sr., SP, Michigan
Patrick Biondi, Sr., OF, Michigan
Michael O’Neill, Jr., OF, Michigan
Jordan Keur, Sr., LF, Michigan State
David Garner, Jr., SP, Michigan State
Andrew Waszak, Sr., SP, Michigan State
Andy Henkemeyer, Sr., OF, Minnesota
Dan Olinger, Jr., 1B, Minnesota
Tom Windle, Jr., SP, Minnesota
Brandon Pierce, Jr., SP, Nebraska
Michael Pritchard, Jr., OF/DH, Nebraska
Dylan Vogt, Sr., RP, Nebraska
Luke Farrell, Sr., SP, Northwestern
Zach Morton, Sr., SP/UT, Northwestern
Trevor Stevens, Sr., SS, Northwestern
Josh Dezse, Jr., 1B/DH/RP, Ohio State
Brad Goldberg, Sr., SP, Ohio State
Jaron Long, Jr., SP, Ohio State
Steve Hill, Sr., SP, Penn State
Steve Snyder, Jr., CF, Penn State
David Walkling, Sr., SP, Penn State
Sean McHugh, Jr., 3B/C, Purdue
Brad Schreiber, Jr., SP, Purdue
Kyle Wood, Fr., SP/OF/1B, Purdue