Husker Players Look Forward to Season

By NU Athletic Communications
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Junior infielder Jake Mort
Opening Statement
“We’re ready to play this year. This team has done a lot of things differently than in the past. I’ve been around here for a while. This team is making some strides that are different from past years. Obviously, we’re doing things on and off the field to make ourselves better. We feel like if we’re fine off the field, we’re going to do better on the field. This year we’ve done 250 hours of community service as a tean. That helps us out because we know what we want. If we want something, we have to give back to each other as teammates. I can tell you on behalf of the team that we’re excited to go to Palo Alto and play out there in California. As long as we play the game well, I think things will take care of themselves out there.”

On how community service relates to the team on the field
“I think it’s one of those things that the coaches demand that for all aspects of our lives, if we’re responsible off the field, we’re going to be responsible on the field. They want us to be squared away in all aspects of our lives. I think it helps us focus a lot better.”

On the team’s volunteer efforts
“We helped at food banks. Personally, I helped with local law enforcement officers. I’m majoring in Spanish, so I helped translate for them on traffic stops. There were a couple of guys who did that. Anything you can think of, they did it – helping at schools, whatever they thought they needed to give back.”

On starting to play baseball
“We’re ready to move on. You can practice against your teammates all the time, facing Johnny Dorn or Thad Weber or guys like that inside. You’re beating up on your teammates, and they’re beating up on you. You’re just ready to get together as a team and go out to play Stanford and play as a team. We’re really anxious to go on.”

On Nebraska’s mix of youth and experience
“It’s coming together really well. A lot of the new guys, like Ben Kline, they’re really grabbing on to the older guys like Jake Opitz. Thad Weber and Johnny Dorn are doing a good job with the pitching side of things. They’re grabbing on and saying ‘this is how we do things.’ As far as following a leader, they’re doing it exceptionally well.”

On the cold weather
“It’s hard not getting outside to take ground balls or fly balls. It’s hard to do that, but fortunately, we’re here at Nebraska. We have great facilities, and we can get away with that.”

On the team’s expectations
“The expectation for this team is to go out and play hard every game, to give 110 percent effort every time. We talked recently about how we just need to play the game the way we know how to play. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Nebraska’s a good enough team that if we play the game the right way, hopefully the results will take care of themselves.”

On seeing changes in senior Johnny Dorn’s approach
“Johnny is the type of guy who’s one of the hardest workers on this team. It’s hard to see a different approach from him. Coach (Eric) Newman has done a good job of getting him to throw to 100 percent of his effort all the time – not to try to pace himself. From a hitter’s standpoint, I see that from him – coming out and competing every pitch, instead of trying to extend the full game.”

Junior pitcher Dan Jennings
Opening Statement
“We’re anxious to get going. Pitching against our own guys and hitting against our own pitchers, it’s kind of old. We like to see each other succeed, and we like to go out there and play as a team and play other people for once. We’re excited to get going, definitely.”

On the pitching staff’s inexperience
“You could take it as inexperience, but we have guys who have played. Even if they haven’t played here, I’ve gone out and played two summers. Thad (Weber) has gone out and played for two summers. We’re getting 70-80 innings in summer ball, and that’s a whole other season to build off of there. We got a lot of experience there. A guy like me could take that inexperience as motivation to finally have our time come.”

On his role in the rotation
“If it’s my day, then I have to go out and do what I have to do. If it’s Thad’s day, he has to go out and do what he has to do with his stuff. We’re different pitchers, and we have different stuff. No matter who’s pitching on what day, they have to compete with what they have that day.”

On pitching in the cold weather
“It’s really not (difficult). Last year, we had some games when we went down to Texas and it was 20-some degrees down there. You think it’s cold if you’re sitting down, but if you’re pitching, you’re sweating. You’re going and getting after it, and not even thinking about it. It’s not even a factor in your mind once you’re out there and you’re getting going.”

On using inexperience as motivation
“That is motivation. Like Coach Anderson said, if guys don’t know my name, then they have nothing to expect out of me. I can just blow them away. That’s just motivation to me.”

On his style of pitching
“Thad and I both have a good fastball, a good breaking ball. I try to strive after what Tony (Watson) did. Tony had an unbelievable changeup. I’ve been working hard every day to try to get a second and third pitch in there. It’s easy to look at a guy like Tony with all the success he had with just a fastball and changeup, he hardly needed a third pitch. It’s easy to model off that a little bit.”

Sophomore outfielder DJ Belfonte
Opening Statement
“We’re excited to get going. We’re excited to get out to California where it isn’t 15 degrees outside right now. We’re just excited about this group of guys. We bond well together, and from what we can tell from practice, it’s going to be a great year.”

On practicing inside and learning from last year.
“I really didn’t have much time as a freshman to think about it because the coaches were on us so much. By the time the first game came, it just kind of hit me. You don’t think about it. Baseball is baseball, no matter what weather conditions you’re in. You still have to approach the game the same way. Baseball expects a lot out of you, so you can’t let the weather determine how you’re going to play one day. Especially as a Midwest kid, you’re expected to have that mindset.”

On being confident in the team offensively
“We have some good veterans to lean on. We have Jake Opitz, who has been through pretty much every circumstance since he’s been here. He’s a good guy just to talk to. Craig Corriston is a tremendous hitter. It helped that as a freshman, I got to lean on guys like Andrew Brown and get some hitting advice from him. You carry that advice and help the younger guys, like Ben Kline and David Stewart, and let them know what’s ahead. It’s an emotional rollercoaster as a freshman, and you help your younger guys on what to expect.”

On developing power versus small ball
“You don’t really focus on anything. You just play the game the way you’ve always played. Coach Anderson talks a lot about roles, and he constantly tells me what my role is. But in my head, I always want to hit home runs. That’s everybody. You don’t come to the ballpark and think that your role is not to hit homers and swing slower. Homers come by your own perfect timing, and the ball carries. The power game isn’t an issue. We’re going to score runs and do what we have to do to win. We’re expected to win, just like every other program here at Nebraska. There’s no other option than to win. You have to do whatever it takes.”

On adjusting as a freshman
“At the very beginning, you get a little taste of how college baseball is played. Baseball is the same here as it is at any level; it’s just a little faster. I think the quicker you understand that – that baseball is played the same at any level – the quicker you adjust. Going into Big 12 play, I didn’t change my approach or anything. I just so happened to put up big numbers during that time of the year. You adjust to the level of play. The more prepared you are, the better off you’ll be.”

On the freshmen
“It’s a good group. They’re very mature in their approach to the game. The coaches did a great job recruiting this class. They’re a group of guys that know what they’re doing. Usually you tell freshmen to follow along with the older guys, but some of them are leading the way. That’s a good sign. We’re excited about them.”

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