Huskers Host NCAA Lincoln Regional
Thursday May 29 Friday, May 30 Saturday, May 31 Sunday, June 1 Monday, June 2 Media and Fan Information Live Internet Video: Huskers.com (Free) Live Radio: Husker Sports Network and for free on the Internet at Huskers.com and NCAAsports.com
NCAA Lincoln Regional Schedule
(Practices are open to the public)
School Practice Press Conference
Nebraska 10 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. 11:15 a.m.
UC Irvine 11:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. 10:45 a.m.
Oral Roberts 1 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. 2:15 p.m.
Eastern Illinois 2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. 1:45 p.m.
Game 1: #1 Nebraska (40-14-1) vs. #4 Eastern Illinois (27-28) 1:05 p.m.
Game 2: #2 UC Irvine (38-16) vs. #3 Oral Roberts (46-12) 7:05 p.m.
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 1:05 p.m.
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 7:05 p.m.
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 1:05 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 6:05 p.m.
Game 7: Same teams as Game 6 (If necessary) 1:05 p.m.
Tickets: All-session tickets are on sale on Huskers.com and at the NU Ticket Office: Prices are set at $56 for Adults and $35 for Youth, Seniors and UNL Students with a valid NCard. Single-session (IF AVAILABLE) will go on sale Friday at 11 a.m. at Hawks Field and at the NU Ticket Office.
Live Television: NET (All Nebraska Games)
Live Stats: NCAAsports.com
Thursday May 29
Friday, May 30
Saturday, May 31
Sunday, June 1
Monday, June 2
Media and Fan Information
Live Internet Video: Huskers.com (Free)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network and for free on the Internet at Huskers.com and NCAAsports.com
Fans across Nebraska can listen to Greg Sharpe and Lane Grindle call the action on the 27-station Husker Sports Network, including KLIN 1400 in Lincoln, 1110 KFAB in Omaha, KRVN 880 AM in Lexington and on the Internet at Huskers.com.
The Huskers will be making their 12th NCAA trip in school history and have a 30-23 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play, including College World Series appearances in 2001, 2002 and 2005. This weekend’s regional will mark the sixth time that NU has hosted an NCAA Regional since 2001 (2001-03, 2005-06, 2008) and fifth time since Hawks Field opened in 2002.
If the Huskers are able to advance to the Super Regional round, they will face the winner of the Baton Rouge Regional, which includes top-seeded LSU, No. 2 seed Southern Miss, No. 3 seed New Orleans and fourth-seeded Texas Southern. The eight Super Regional series will be held June 6-9, while the eight winners of those Super Regionals will advance to the College World Series in Omaha, June 14-25.
Nebraska was one of six Big 12 Conference teams to earn spots in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field, and one of three league teams to earn a No. 1 seed and the right to host an NCAA Regional. Big 12 regular-season champion Texas A&M earned a top seed in the College Station Regional, while Oklahoma State earned a No. 1 seed at the Stillwater Regional.
-Since the NCAA went to the 64-team format in 1999, Nebraska has made nine appearances, which ties for seventh nationally in that time period. The only teams to make more appearances tham Nebraska in that span are Cal State Fullerton, Florida State, Miami, Oral Roberts, Rice and Texas.
-Nebraska’s No. 1 seed in the NCAA Regional marks the seventh time in the last nine seasons that the Huskers have been a No. 1 seed. The Huskers are 14-4 all-time as a No. 1 seed, all coming since 2000.
-Nebraska played 23 games against NCAA Regional qualifiers, posting a 10-11-1 record against fellow tournament participants.
-Nebraska’s three first-team All-Big 12 selections this season marked the seventh time in the last nine seasons that the Huskers have had multiple first-team honorees.
-With its win against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament, Nebraska reached 40 wins for the 17th time in school history, and eighth time in the past decade. In the Big 12 era (1997-present), Nebraska’s eight 40-win seasons are the most by any program, as Texas and Oklahoma State have done it seven times apiece.
-Nebraska finished the regular season in third place in the final conference standings, just 1.5 games behind regular-season champion Texas A&M. The Huskers, who were picked to finish sixth by the league coaches in the preseason poll, went 7-2 in Big 12 conference series, their best effort since winning eight of nine series in 2005. In fact, Nebraska and Oklahoma State were the only two teams in the league to win at least seven conference series this spring.
-The Big 12 was tied for second among all conferences with six teams (Nebraska, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma) earning regional bids. In addition, the three No. 1 seeds by Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State tied for second among all conferences for top seeds.
-Nebraska finished the regular season ranked seventh in the RPI released Monday morning. The Huskers played more than half of their games (30-of-55) against teams currently in the top-50 of the RPI, posting a 16-13-1 against those squads. NU went 24-13-1 against top-100 RPI teams. As a league, the Big 12, is rated third among all conferences, has three teams ranked in the top 14 of the most recent RPI.
NCAA Tournament History
Nebraska makes its 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament this weekend. The Huskers made their first-ever NCAA appearance in 1979, going 1-2 at the Annapolis Regional. The following year, Nebraska returned to the NCAA Tournament, where the Huskers went 2-2. Nebraska made its third trip in 1985, defeating Pepperdine in the opener before dropping its next two games.
The Huskers returned to the NCAA Tournament in 1999, following its Big 12 Tournament title (the first title of any type since 1950) and went 1-2 in the Columbus Regional. The appearance snapped a 14-year drought for the Big Red and began the Huskers recent success on the diamond.
In 2000, the Huskers won their first regional title, sweeping three games in the Minneapolis Regional before falling in three game at the Stanford Super Regional. The next year, Nebraska made its home postseason debut, playing to sellout crowds at Buck Beltzer Stadium, going 3-0 in the Regional and defeating Rice twice en route to the 2001 College World Series. One year later, the Huskers moved into their new home - Hawks Field at Haymarket Park - and celebrated with another berth in the College World Series. In 2003, NU's string of regional titles ended as the Huskers lost to Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State) in the title game. Two years later, Nebraska swept through its Regional and Super Regional on its way to its third College World Series appearance this decade. After going 0-2 in 2006, the Huskers regrouped in 2007, advancing to the championship game of the Tempe Regional before losing to eventual CWS qualifier Arizona.
The 2008 season marks Nebraska's fifth NCAA Regional trip under Head Coach Mike Anderson, as the Huskers have advanced to regional play under Anderson in every season, except for 2004.
Scouting the NCAA Lincoln Regional
Eastern Illinois comes to Lincoln after capturing the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Charleston, Ill., school brings a 27-28 overall mark to Lincoln after defeating Southeast Missouri in the OVC championship game to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since winning the league title in 1999. That season, the Panthers knocked off Arizona in the Waco Regional hosted by Baylor, before being eliminated from the tournament.
Head Coach Jim Schmitz led Eastern Illinois to a 13-13 conference mark during regular-season OVC play. The Panthers are hitting .281 with 30 homers as a team while averaging six runs scored per game. Panther pitchers own a 4.33 team ERA, while opponents have scored 5.5 runs per contest and hit .253 against Eastern Illinois.
Junior center fielder Brett Nommensen leads the Panther offense by hitting .397 with four homers, four triples and 17 doubles on the year. The first-team All-OVC selection has scored a team-leading 54 runs, while also stealing a team-best 18 bases. The only other Panther batting over .300 is sophomore outfielder Curt Restko, who comes to Lincoln with a .305 average one homer and 19 RBIs.
Josh Mueller emerged as the ace of the EIU pitching staff during the season and earned a spot on the All-OVC Freshman Team. Mueller went 6-7 with a 4.26 ERA on the year. Mueller struck out 75 and walked 41 in 67.2 innings pitched, while holding opponents to a .218 batting average.
UC Irvine (38-16) earned the No. 2 seed in the Lincoln Regional and looks for a return trip to the College World Series. The Anteaters finished in a tie for third in the Big West Conference regular-season standings after shutting out UC Santa Barbara, 2-0, in the regular season finale to finish 14-10 in the Big West. The Anteaters come to Lincoln as winners of four of their past five games.
On the season, UCI ranks second nationally with a 2.87 ERA, while also hitting .305 as a team The Anteaters are averaging 6.1 runs per game, while holding the opposition to just 3.8 runs per contest. Ben Orloff leads an extremely balanced UCI offense by hitting .355 with 18 stolen bases. Orloff is one of seven Anteater regulars batting over .300, including Francis Larson who owns team bests with seven homers and 39 RBIs to go along with his .326 average. Ollie Linton has added a .323 average and a team-leading 36 stolen bases.
Scott Gorgen leads the UC Irvine staff with a 10-3 record and a 1.90 ERA, as he has allowed just 18 extra-base hits over 104.0 innings of work, while Daniel Bibona is 803 with a 3.10 ERA in 18 appearances. Eric Pettis has been the Anteaters' closer, going 4-2 with 15 saves and a 1.76 ERA.
Last season, UC Irvine produced one of the best seasons in school history with a 47-17-1 overall record and a 15-6 Big West mark. The Anteaters advanced to the College World Series by beating Texas in the regional round before sweeping Wichita State in the Super Regional. At the CWS, UCI opened with a loss to Arizona State, before knocking off both Cal State Fullerton and the Sun Devils. The Anteaters had their season come to an end with a 7-1 loss to 2007 national champion Oregon State.
Series History: The Huskers own a 1-0 all-time record against the Anteaters, as NU posted a 5-3 win in the only previous meeting on Feb. 22, 1980.
Third-seeded Oral Roberts owns the best record in the Lincoln Regional field with a 46-12 overall mark. The Golden Eagles captured their 11th straight conference title by winning the Summit League tournament with a 9-0 win over Southern Utah on Saturday at J.L. Johnson Stadium in Tulsa.
ORU comes to Lincoln riding a 12-game winning streak. The Golden Eagles dominated the Summit League All-Tournament Team with seven selections to the squad, including MVP Brian Van Kirk. He was joined on the unit by Brendan Duff, David Genao, Juan Martinez, Kelly Minissale, Ben Petralli and Jerry Sullivan.
Van Kirk enters the NCAA Tournament hitting .421 with 17 homers, 22 doubles and 72 RBIs on the season. He headlines a Golden Eagle squad that is batting .330 as a team with 74 home runs and 138 doubles. ORU is averaging 8.6 runs per game, while holding the opposition to 4.8 runs per contest. As a team, the Golden Eagles carry a 4.22 ERA. Carlos Luna owns a perfect 12-0 record on the season with a 3.15 ERA, while teammate Michael Jarman is 11-2 with a 3.74 ERA.
Series History: Nebraska and Oral Roberts have faced each other 34 times in history, with the Golden Eagles carrying a 19-15 advantage in the all-time series.The two teams have not faced each other since the Huskers swept a three-game series against ORU, April 5-7, 1996.
Winning the Close Ones
One of the Nebraska’s best traits in 2008 has been the ability to win close games. The Huskers are 16-2 in games decided by two runs or less, including holding a 9-1 mark in one-run games this season. The only one-run loss this season was a 1-0 setback at Oklahoma State on April 11.
Nebraska has shown the knack for overcoming opponent leads this season. The Huskers have overcome deficits 20 times in their 40 wins, including three deficits of at least four runs. Among them was a five-run comeback against ninth-ranked Texas A&M on May 11, the largest deficit the Huskers have overcome in a win since 2003. Under Mike Anderson, the Huskers have authored 98 come-from-behind wins since 2003.
There’s No Place Like Home
The Huskers enter the postseason with a 28-3-1 (.891) record at Hawks Field, collecting the team’s most regular-season home wins since 1988 (29-5). The .891 winning percentage ranks fifth over the last three decades of baseball.
Fun with Numbers
-The Huskers have been tough on ranked teams at home over the last decade, posting a 60-29 (.674) record since 1998, including an impressive 22-8 (.733) mark against top-10 teams. NU is 42-20 (.677) against ranked foes since Hawks Field opened in 2002.
-NU is 21-1-1 this season when recording at least 10 hits and 32-0 when out-hitting an opponent.
-The Huskers are an impressive 35-2 when holding opponents to five runs or less this season.
-Nebraska has won 118 of its last 119 games when taking a lead into the ninth inning and is 118-0-1 in that stretch dating back to the 2005 season. NU is 213-3-1 (.984) when leading after eight innings under Mike Anderson.
-Husker starting pitchers have gone at least five innings in 43 of the 55 starts this season and are a combined 25-10 on the year.
-Nebraska has committed one error or less in 36 of 55 games this year and enters the NCAA Regional with a .970 fielding percentage. NU’s three straight games with at least two errors in the Big 12 Tournament marked the first time since the opening weekend that has occured. NU’s current fielding percentage ranks just outside the top five totals in school history.
-Nebraska hitters have been plunked 85 times this year, which ranks fifth on Husker single-season charts. Third baseman Jake Mort has been hit 15 times, one shy of 10th place on Husker single-season charts, while Nick Sullivan (14) and DJ Belfonte (12) have also reached double digits in HBP entering this weekend’s NCAA Regional.
-Nebraska ranks eighth nationally in wins since the start of the 2000 season with 402. Among Big 12 schools, only Texas has won more games this decade than the Huskers.
Husker Pitchers Shine in 2008
Despite losing six pitchers selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft and returning only five pitchers who threw at least one inning from last year’s staff, the Huskers enter the NCAA Regional ranked second in the conference with a 4.01 ERA and led the conference in ERA until the final weekend of the regular season.
Under first-year pitching coach Eric Newman, Nebraska leads the Big 12 in strikeouts per nine innings (8.51), complete games (six) and opponent batting average (.244), and is in the top three in saves (17, third) and shutouts (four, third).
Ringing Up the Ks
Nebraska’s pitching staff has been proficient in striking out hitters in 2008. The Huskers lead the Big 12 with 8.51 strikeouts per nine innings, a total that ranks among the top 20 programs nationally.
NU pitchers have totaled double figures in strikeouts 20 times, including a season-high 19 strikeouts in consecutive games against Louisiana-Lafayette (May 4) and Texas A&M (May 9). Those were the highest single-game totals by a Husker pitching staff since 1999.
NU’s strikeout-per-game total is on pace to be the most in school history, as no Husker pitching staff has ever averaged more than eight strikeouts per game. Entering the regional, NU’s 469 strikeouts rank fifth in school history and are the most since 2005.
Doubling Up the Wins
Nebraska has enjoyed doubleheaders this year, sweeping five of the six twinbills it has played, including at Baylor and Texas A&M. The only blemish on NU’s doubleheader slate is the season-opening loss at Stanford on Feb. 22.
Nebraska’s sweep at Baylor on April 26 was historic on a number of fronts. First, it marked the Huskers’ first road doubleheader sweep in Big 12 play and first by the Huskers over a league foe since 1994. Second, it allowed the Huskers to earn its first-ever series win in Waco.
Nebraska’s sweep of ninth-ranked Texas A&M on May 11 marked NU’s first doubleheader sweep of a ranked team since a twinbill sweep of No. 18 Texas in 2001, and NU’s first-ever sweep of a top-10 team since joining the Big 12 in 1997. The sweep also gave the Huskers the season series over the Aggies, marking the first time that Nebraska took the regular-season series from all four Texas Big 12 schools in the same season.
Seven Huskers Named All-Big 12
Johnny Dorn, Jake Opitz and Mitch Abeita highlighted the seven Husker baseball players selected to the 2008 All-Big 12 team announced on May 20.
Dorn, Opitz and Abeita were all chosen as first-team honorees, marking the fourth time in the last six years that Nebraska had multiple first-team selections. Starting pitcher Thad Weber was the lone Husker on the second team, while first baseman Craig Corriston, outfielder Bryce Nimmo and reliever Dan Jennings were honorable-mention selections.
Two positions ended droughts, as Mitch Abeita’s selection marked Nebraska’s first all-conference catcher since Jed Morris in 2002. At second base, Opitz’s selection marked the first time a Husker had received first-team accolades at the position since 1972.
Honors Continue for Dorn
Nebraska pitcher Johnny Dorn has been named a semifinalist for both the USA Baseball Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Awards.
Dorn enters the NCAA Regional with a 6-1 record and a 2.38 ERA in 13 starts, ranking second in the Big 12 with 96 strikeouts and ranking in the top five of the conference in opponent batting average (.203, second), innings pitched (98.1, third) and ERA (fourth). He has turned in 12 quality starts in 14 appearances and has reached double digits in strikeouts three times, including a season-high 13 strikeouts against Northern Colorado on March 8.
Dorn leads all active college pitchers with 37 wins and is second at Nebraska in wins, strikeouts, starts and innings pitched. Dorn is bidding to become Nebraska’s first Golden Spikes Award winner since Alex Gordon in 2005.
Dorn Dominates in 2008
Right-hander Johnny Dorn has been one of the nation’s top performers, going 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA this season. The senior from Grand Island has held 12 of his 14 opponents to three runs or less, and ranks among the Big 12 leaders in innings (98.1, third), strikeouts (96, second), opponent batting average (.203, second) and ERA (fourth). He has reached double figures in strikeouts on four occasions, including a career-high 13 strikeouts against Northern Colorado on March 8,.
While his numbers have been consistently impressive, Dorn’s efforts are even better than his already gaudy numbers. In the eight games where he either lost or received a no-decision, he has a 2.15 ERA over 58.2 innings of work, striking out 51 and walking only 15 in that span.
Dorn, whose 37 wins lead all active pitchers in the country, is one of only 10 pitchers among Big 12 schools to win at least 35 games. He is also firmly entrenched on NU’s career lists in several categories, ranking second all time in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched. He is one of only two pitchers in school history to record a pair of double-figure win seasons and is just four wins shy of matching two-time All-American Shane Komine’s school and Big 12 record of 41 wins.
Jennings is Jack of All Traders
One of the most valuable pitchers on the Husker staff has been junior Dan Jennings. The left-hander from West Des Moines, Iowa, has filled nearly every role on the Husker staff, going 6-3 with four saves and a 2.95 ERA in 22 appearances. He has struck out 71 hitters over 73.1 innings of work and is among the Big 12 leaders in ERA (sixth), opponent batting average (.218, sixth), strikeouts (10th) and saves (four, 10th) en route to honorable-mention All-Big 12 honors.
Jennings tossed 30.1 consecutive shutout innings from March 18 until April 23, the second-longest steak in school history. The streak included wins over Arkansas, Northern Colorado and Oklahoma State and saves against Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas.
Catching Up with Mitch
Senior catcher Mitch Abeita added to a remarkable senior year last week, becoming just the eighth NU catcher to earn first-team all-conference honors since 1958. Abeita was named a semifinalist for the Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award on May 15, becoming one of 12 catchers around the country honored for their efforts this spring.
On the season, Abeita is hitting .333 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs. He leads the Huskers in homers and RBIs, while ranking among the Big 12 leaders in hitting (18th), walks (40, fourth) and on-base percentage (.467, fourth). Abeita’s leadership has also helped Nebraska’s pitching staff rank second in the Big 12 in ERA entering the NCAA Regional.
Abeita, who has reached safely via hit or walk in 52 of 53 games, had a 17-game hit streak earlier this month - the longest streak by a Husker in three years. His 10 homers are the most by a Husker catcher since Jed Morris belted 23 in 2002. Abeita has shown the knack for timely hits, delivering walk-off game-winning hits against both Louisiana-Lafayette (May 3) and No. 9 Texas A&M (May 11).
Last season, Abeita had only one homer and 20 RBIs while appearing in 46 games before breaking his fibula in the Big 12 Championship.
The Two Jakes
Nebraska’s infield duo of second baseman Jake Opitz and third baseman Jake Mort have been anchors in the Husker lineup this season.
Mort has been exceptional defensively, fielding at a .962 clip this season, which is the second-best percentage ever by a Husker third baseman. It trails only Mort’s .964 clip in 2006. Offensively, Mort has been one of the unsung heros of the NU attack from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He leads the Huskers in both sacrifices (11) and hit-by-pitches (15) while going 10-of-12 on the base paths and ranking second on the team with 47 runs scored.
During the second half of the year, Mort has been effective at the plate, hitting .323 with 26 runs scored over his last 23 contests. He matched his career high with three hits in the series-clinching win against ninth-ranked Texas A&M on May 11, and belted his first career homer in his 500th career plate appearance against Missouri’s Aaron Crow on May 15. At last week’s Big 12 Tournament, Mort hit .417 with four runs scored, including a three-hit day against Kansas State on May 23. He now has 10 multi-hit games in his last 23 contests.
Opitz has provided offensive punch in the lineup, hitting .335 with eight homers and 45 RBIs in the No. 3 spot in the Husker lineup. He paces the Huskers in RBIs, runs scored, stolen bases (13), multi-hit (20) and multi-RBI (14) efforts. Opitz has already set career bests in average, stolen bases, homers and runs scored entering the NCAA Regional, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors for the first time in his career.
He has been on a tear in recent weeks, hitting .372 with five homers, 15 RBIs, 19 runs scored and seven stolen bases in his last 18 contests. He was the only Husker selected to the All-Big 12 Tournament team, hitting .500 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored. The previous week, he hit .471 (8-for-17) with five runs scored and three stolen bases in four games.
What 2 Watch 4 - NCAA Version
-Johnny Dorn is 1.2 innings shy of pitching 100.0 innings in a year. If he does that this weekend, Dorn will join Shane Komine as the only Husker pitchers to throw more than 100 innings twice in a career.
-With 96 strikeouts, Dorn is also in ninth place on NU’s single-season list and can become the eighth pitcher in school history to record 100 strikeouts in a season. Dorn has also established NU’s record with 16 hit batters this season, breaking the mark of 15 set by Aaron Marsden in 2002.
-Jake Opitz enters the NCAA Regional nine hits shy of 10th place on NU’s career hit list. He has 222 in his career, while Daniel Bruce stands in 10th place with 231. Opitz is also four doubles shy of 10th place on NU’s career doubles list.
-Jake Mort has been hit by pitches 27 times in his career, and sits in fourth place on NU’s career chart in that category.
-With his next appearance, Zach Herr will take over sole possession of fourth place on NU’s career appearance list for pitchers. Currently, he is tied with Jonas Armenta, who made 73 appearances from 1994 until 1997.
Husker Academic Success
Four Nebraska baseball players were honored on May 8 with their selection to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VII baseball team.
Pitcher Dan Jennings (3.26 in economics) and outfielders Nick Sullivan (3.79 in finance), Bryce Nimmo (3.50 in finance) and DJ Belfonte (3.67, finance) all earned spots on the 11-member first team. Nebraska’s four first-team selections tied Brown for the most first-team honors of any Division I program.
The 2008 season marked the first time Nebraska has had four baseball players garner first-team academic all-district honors in the same season.
It was Nimmo’s second selection, as he was a first-team choice in 2006, and the first for Jennings, Sullivan and Belfonte. Nebraska’s three starting outfielders were all first-team picks no other school in the country had more than one outfielder as a first-team honoree.
Huskers Place Nine on Academic Team
A Big 12-high nine Huskers were among the 62 student-athletes selected to the 2008 academic All-Big 12 Baseball Team released on May 15.
Nebraska had seven players qualify for first-team honors, the most first-team selections in program history. Senior center fielder Bryce Nimmo led the way by earning first-team honors for the third consecutive season, while third baseman Jake Mort received recognition for the second time in his career.
Nebraska’s other first-team academic All-Big 12 picks included outfielders DJ Belfonte and Nick Sullivan, infielder Jeff Tezak and pitchers Zach Herr and Dan Jennings. Jake Opitz and Thad Weber were both recognized as second-team picks and had GPAs of 3.00 or better.