LINCOLN – Coming off a trip to the 2016 NCAA Tournament and a second-place finish during the Big Ten regular season, the Nebraska baseball team opens the 2017 season on Friday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m. (CT) in Tempe, Ariz., with a doubleheader against the UC Riverside Highlanders.
The last time the Huskers opened the season with a doubleheader was in 2008 when NU split a doubleheader at Stanford.
The Huskers and Highlanders will play four games in three days at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Following the season-opening doubleheader on Friday, the series continues on Saturday at 1 p.m., while Sunday’s series finale is scheduled for 2 p.m.
The Huskers last played at Tempe Diablo in 2014 when they opened the year with single games against Pacific (W, 5-3) and Oregon State (L, 15-7), as well as a doubleheader against Gonzaga (W, 7-4 & L, 5-3).
The Huskers will be back in the Phoenix area the second weekend of the regular season when they play two games each against Oregon State and Utah at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.
How to Listen/Watch the Huskers
Fans can listen to Greg Sharpe and Nick Handley call all the action on the Husker Sports Network. Every game this season can be heard on Huskers.com and the Official Nebraska Huskers App for both iOS and android devices.
Friday’s season-opening doubleheader will be carried on 1400 AM in Lincoln and on 590 AM in Omaha. Fans can also listen to both games on TuneIn.com or the TuneIn App on the Husker IMG Sports Network channel.
Saturday’s game will be carried on 1400 AM in Lincoln and 590 AM in Omaha, but due to a possible conflict with Nebraska’s men’s basketball game at Ohio State there will be no TuneIn coverage on Saturday.
Sunday’s game will be carried on 1400 AM in Lincoln, but will not be carried in Omaha because of Nebraska’s women’s basketball game against Indiana. There will be no TuneIn coverage on Sunday.
There will be no TV/video stream coverage this weekend in Tempe.
Nebraska Head Coach Darin Erstad will manage against a former teammate this weekend, as Troy Percival is in his third year as the head coach at UC Riverside. The two former Angels will bring their teams to Tempe Diablo Stadium, where they once attended Spring Training as players.
Like Erstad, Percival is coaching at his alma mater. Percival was a catcher for three years with the Highlanders and was drafted following his junior season by the Angels in the sixth round of the 1990 MLB Draft.
After one-year in the minors, Percival made the transition from catcher to pitcher and eventually made his Major League debut in 1995, the same year Erstad was taken by the Angels with the first overall pick following his junior season at Nebraska.
Erstad made his MLB debut in 1996 and the two played with each other through 2004, and were both instrumental in the team’s 2002 World Series title.
Entering 2017, Erstad ranks fifth all-time in Angels’ history with 1,320 games played, while Percival leads all pitchers with 579 appearances and is the team’s career saves leader with 316.
Meyers Earns Preseason Honors
Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Nebraska junior left-handed pitcher and outfielder Jake Meyers was named a third-team preseason All-American by D1Baseball.com, Perfect Game and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).
One the most dynamic two-way players in college baseball a year ago, Meyers led the Husker offense with a .326 batting average and his 1.42 ERA was tops on NU’s pitching staff. The Omaha native is the first Husker to lead the team in both batting average and ERA dating back to at least 1967.
An early-season hand injury limited Meyers’ ability to pitch, but once he got on the mound he became a vital part of the weekend rotation. His 1.42 ERA was the second-lowest single-season ERA in school history by a pitcher who threw at least 40.0 innings, trailing only Bill McGuire’s school-record 1.29 ERA from 1984.
Along with hitting .326, Meyers added 12 doubles, a team-best six triples, two home runs, 29 RBIs, 39 runs and 10 stolen bases.
Since Head Coach Darin Erstad took over in 2012 the Huskers have anually played a tough non-conference schedule. The Huskers will play 11-straight games away from Lincoln to start the year, and all 11 will be neutral-site contests, a new high for the Huskers. The previous high for consecutive neutral site games to start a season was seven in 2014
The last time the Huskers opened the season at home was 1990, when NU hosted Kearney on Feb. 11 at Buck Beltzer Field.
How High Can He Climb
Ben Miller was taken in the 32nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but turned down professional baseball to instead return to Nebraska for his senior season. The Clive, Iowa, native now has a chance to cement his name near the top of Nebraska’s all-time hits list.
Miller enters the season with 174 hits, putting him 26 hits shy of becoming the 25th member of Nebraska’s 200-hit club. Over the past two seasons Miller has averaged 68.5 hits and with that average he would end his career just outside of NU’s all-time top 10.
If Miller can match his 77 hits from last season, he would tie Michael Pritchard for fifth all-time at Nebraska with 251 hits.
The Huskers have had at least one player join the 200 hit club in each of the past four seasons, including 2016 second-round pick Ryan Boldt last year.
Start With a W
Each of the last three seasons have started with a Nebraska victory and the Huskers will look to stretch that streak to four straight years on Friday afternoon.
Prior to a victory over Pacific in 2014, the Huskers had lost four straight season openers, with the last win coming at UL-Lafayette in 2009.
The last time NU started four-straight seasons with a win was from 2002 to 2007, when the Huskers won six-straight season openers.
Jake of All Trades
Junior Jake Meyers wore many hats for the Huskers last year, including outfielder, starting pitcher and 3-hole hitter.
Meyers led the 2016 Huskers in both batting average (.326) and ERA (1.42). Meyers hit in 57 of NU’s 59 games and also made nine starts on the mound.
The last time a Husker started at least nine games on the mound and hit in 40 more games was Alvie Shepherd in 1994. That season Shepherd went 2-5 with a 5.71 in 11 starts, while hitting .278 in 57 games at the plate.
In 1993, Troy Brohawn went 13-0 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts and hit .329 over 58 games at the plate. Brohawn was a first-team All-American in 1993, was drafted in the fourth round of the 1994 MLB Draft by the Giants and played three seasons in the Majors.
One of Meyer’s most impressive games last season came in a victory over Nicholls State on April 24. Meyers tossed 7.0 shutout innings and got the win on the mound, while also driving in the eventual game-winning run with a three-run homer. Meyers was the first Husker to homer and record a pitching win in the same game since April 21, 2009, when Adam Bailey hit a solo home run and tossed 2.2 innings of relief in his only pitching win as a Husker.
Play the Best
The Husker are scheduled to play 13 games against teams that participate in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, including a pair of games against teams that were in last season’s College World Series.
Nebraska will play 2016 NCAA runner-up Arizona and CWS qualifier Oklahoma State at the Frisco College Baseball Classic in Frisco, Texas. The Huskers and Cowboys also met in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, while the Huskers and Wildcats met early in the 2016 season at the Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego, Calif.
Games Against 2016 NCAA Tournament Teams
- 3 vs. Western Carolina
- 3 at Minnesota
- 3 at Ohio State
- 2 vs. Utah (Surprise Tournament)
- 1 vs. Oklahoma State (Frisco College Classic)
- 1 vs. Arizona (Frisco College Classic)
2016 first-team All-Big Ten pick Scott Schreiber was one of the hottest hitters in the country last season before an injury during the final weekend of the regular season slowed the slugger. Schreiber missed the Big Ten Tournament and played in one game of the NCAA Tournament.
Schreiber ended the year with a .325 batting average, 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. The 16 homers were the most by a Husker since 2010 when Adam Bailey hit 18 and the most by a Husker sophomore since 2004 when Alex Gordon led the team with 18.
Schreiber had a three multi-homer game in 2016, the first time a Husker had done that since 2006 when Brandon Buckman also did it three times.
Win the Weekend
Each of the past three seasons the Huskers have won their season opener, but then have failed to post a winning record in the season’s opening weekend.
Since Head Coach Darin Erstad’s first season in 2012, the Huskers are just 4-13 in games played during the opening weekend of the college baseball season. The Huskers have bounced back the following weekend though, posting a combined 10-7 record during the second weekend of the past five seasons.
Leave it to Luensmann
Chad Luensmann had a tough task last season as a true freshman, he had to replace career saves holder Josh Roeder as NU’s closer. Luensmann went on to save 13 games in 14 chances, a NU freshman record, and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, becoming the first Husker baseball player to win the award.
Luensmann’s 13 saves tied Brett Jensen (2006) for third place in NU’s single-season record book and Luensmann ranked fourth nationally in saves. Among freshmen, Luensmann tied Long Beach State’s Chris Rivera for the most saves in the country.
Just one year into his Husker career, Luensmann is already tied for fifth on the NU career save list.