Huskers Return to Arizona, Face Oregon State and Utah
LINCOLN – For the second straight week the Nebraska baseball team (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten) will be in the Phoenix area, as the Huskers will be in Surprise, Ariz., for the Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers. The Huskers were scheduled to play four games against the UC Riverside Highlanders last weekend in Tempe, Ariz., but rain washed out the final two games of the series.
The Huskers and Ohio State Buckeyes (2-2, 0-0 Big Ten) will represent the Big Ten Conference, while the Pac-12 will be represented by the Oregon State Beavers (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12) and the Utah Utes (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12). The Huskers and Buckeyes will each play a pair of games against both Oregon State and Utah.
The Huskers open the week against the No. 8 ranked Beavers at 2 p.m. (CT) on Thursday. Nebraska and Utah then meet on Friday at 6 p.m.
Nebraska and Oregon State meet for a second time on Saturday and the game is scheduled for 5 p.m. (CT), but could be pushed back because the Rangers and Royals have a spring training game that starts at 2:05 p.m.
The Huskers wrap up the weekend against Utah on Sunday at 2 p.m. (CT) and the game will be on a side field near Surprise Stadium. The game can’t be played at Surprise Stadium because the Rangers and Royals have a game at 2:05 p.m.
Oregon State enters the week ranked No. 8 in the country following a perfect 4-0 start to the season. The Beavers will be familiar with Surprise Stadium, as they played all four games last weekend there as well, picking up a pair of wins over both Duke (6-3, 11-2) and Indiana (1-0, 4-1).
Entering the week the Huskers and Beavers have meet just three times previously, with the Beavers holding a 2-1 advantage. The Husker did take the last game in the series with a 9-2 victory over the then No. 1 ranked Beavers on Feb. 21, 2014. The game also took place at Surprise Stadium and Nebraska notched seven two-out hits on the day that scored eight of its nine runs.
Nebraska holds a 4-2 all-time advantage over Utah. The Utes took the last meeting, 4-3, during the 2014 season when they played at Goodyear Park in Goodyear, Ariz., the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.
The Utes are the defending Pac-12 Conference champions and opened the season with a three-game series at CSU Bakersfield last weekend. After dropping the season opener they responded with a pair of victories to take the series.
Utah ended the 2016 regular season with a 25-27 record, but earned the Pac-12’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after going 19-11 during conference play. It was Utah’s first conference championship in baseball since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
How to Listen/Watch the Huskers
Fans can listen to Ben McLaughlin 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.
Thursday’s 2 p.m. game against Oregon State will be carried on 1400 AM in Lincoln and on 590 AM in Omaha until men’s basketball coverage starts on both stations at 5 p.m.
Friday’s 6 p.m. game against Utah and Saturday’s 5 p.m. game against Oregon State will be carried on 1400 AM and 590 AM. Fans can also listen to on TuneIn.com or the TuneIn App on the Husker IMG Sports Network channel.
Sunday’s 2 p.m. game against Utah will be carried on 1400 AM in Lincoln. Due to a conflict with Nebraska women’s basketball the baseball game will not be carried in Omaha on 590 AM or on TuneIn.
There will be no TV/video stream coverage this weekend in Tempe..
Since Head Coach Darin Erstad took over in 2012 the Huskers have anually played a tough non-conference schedule. The Huskers were scheduled to play 11-straight games away from Lincoln to start the year, all neutral-site contests, but due to a pair of rain outs last weekend the total is now nine straight games.
The nine straight neutral site games are still a new high for the Huskers, as 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 week with 175 hits, putting him 25 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.
Schedule the Pac
2017 marks the eighth straight season the Huskers have played at least one game against a team from the Pac-12 Conference. This year the Huskers play three teams from the Pac-12, including Oregon State, Utah and Arizona. The last time the Huskers didn’t play a team from the Pac-12 Conference was during the 2009 season.
Games Against Pac-12 Teams
2010 - at UCLA (3 games)
2011 - vs. Washington (1 game), UCLA (3 games)
2012 - vs. Utah (2 games), vs. UNLV (1 games), Cal (4 games)
2013 - at USC (1 game)
2014 - vs. Oregon State (2 games), vs. Washington (1 game), vs. Utah (1 game), UNLV (3 games)
2015 - at UNLV (3 games)
2016 - vs. Arizona (1 game)
2017 - vs. Oregon State (2 games), vs. Utah (2 games), vs. Arizona (1 game)
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.
After just two games in 2017, Meyers ranks second on the team in average (.250) and has yet to step on the mound, but is scheduled to start against Utah on Saturday.
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.
Luensmann picked up his 14th career save in Nebraska’s first win of the year last weekend and is now tied for fourth place on NU’s career saves list.
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)
Get a Lead for the Bullpen
During Darin Erstad’s tenure at Nebraska, the Husker bullpen has done its job when it has a lead. Prior to ninth-inning walk-off loss last season at Rutgers on Friday, April 29, the Huskers had won 73 straight games when leading after the eighth inning. Since the loss at Rutgers, the Huskers have won 12 straight games when leading after eight innings.
Led by pitching coach Ted Silva, the Huskers are 138-17 since the start of the 2012 season when they lead after the sixth inning. The Huskers are 144-9 when leading after seven innings and are nearly perfect when leading after eight innings with a 154-5 record.
Welcome to College Baseball
Five players saw the field as Huskers for the first time last weekend, including three true freshman. Senior Alex Raburn was in the group, starting both games against UC Riverside at shortstop. Raburn transfered to Nebraska after playing three seasons at North Carolina and missing last season with an injury. Also joining Raburn on the field in the season opener was redshirt freshman and Seward, Neb., native Ben Klenke, who started in right field.
Freshman Paul Tillotson started Nebraska’s second game of the season on the mound, becoming the first Husker freshman since Derek Burkamper in 2014 to start on the mound during NU’s opening weekend. Tillotson cruised through the first three innings of the game, needing just 27 pitches to sit the Highlanders down in order in each of the first three frames. The Monument, Colo., native retired the first 10 batters he faced before he gave up five straight singles and saw his first college start come to an end.
Tillotson was joined on the field by fellow freshmen Mojo Hagge and Luke Roskam. Hagge shined in his debut, gonig 2-for-3 at the plate with a double, walk and a run scored from the No. 9 spot in the Husker lineup.