Huskers Close Big Ten Play at Penn State
The Nebraska baseball team (32-17-1, 14-6-1 Big Ten) finishes up the Big Ten regular season this week, starting on Thursday, at Penn State.
Thursday night's opener and Friday night's game will each start at 5:30 p.m. (CT). The series finale is slated for Saturday at 10 a.m. All three games will be streamed on GoPSUnow and will be carried on the Husker Sports Network.
Nebraska is ranked in four different polls, led by a No. 22 ranking in Baseball America. The Huskers are 23rd in both D1Baseball and Collegiate Baseball. NU is 28th in the NCBWA rankings, and receving votes in the USA Today poll.
Nebraska is in second place in the Big Ten with a .690 winning percentage behind Minnesota, who has a .700 winning percentage. The Golden Gophers are 14-6-0 with three games against Purdue remaining. Michigan is in third place with a 14-7-0 record (.667). Nebraska's best finish in the Big Ten regular season since joining the conference in 2012 is second, which the Huskers have acheived on three occasions (2013, 2014, 2016). NU last won a regular-season conference title in 2005, when the Huskers won the Big 12 crown on their way to a College World Series appearance.
Last weekend, Nebraska won 2-of-3 against Michigan State in the home regular-season series finale. NU dropped Game 1 by a 6-3 decision, but responded in Game 2 by winning, 5-2. In Game 3, the Huskers notched an 8-7 win on Senior Day, as Jake Schleppenbach went 4-for-4.
Penn State defeated Villanova on Tuesday night, 11-5, after losing 2-of-3 against Indiana over the weekend.
Nebraska-Penn State Series History
Nebraska leads the all-time series against Penn State, 6-1, dating back to the first meeting between the schools in 2012. The Huskers are 5-1 in Lincoln and 1-0 at a neutral site, meaning this weekend will be the first meetings in University Park, Pa.
How to Listen/Watch the Huskers
Fans can listen to Greg Sharpe, Ben McLaughlin and Nick Handley call all the action this season 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.
All three games this weekend will be carried on 1400 AM in Lincoln and 590 AM in Omaha. Fans can also listen on TuneIn.com or the TuneIn App on the Husker IMG Sports Network channel. All three games will be streamed on Penn State's athletic website via GoPSUnow.
Join the Club
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 became the 25th player in school history to total 200 career hits on Saturday, April 8, with a 4-for-4 game against Maryland, his first career four-hit game. He followed it up the next day with a 4-for-5 performance in the series clincher.
Miller enters the weekend with 226 hits, tying him for 18th all-time at Nebraska. Three weeks ago at Minnesota he passed Pat Kelly, who had 212 hits during his three-year career from 2012-14 and currently serves as Nebraska's undergraduate assistant coach. Last weekend he passed current staff member Curtis Ledbetter and Ryan Boldt in the series against Michigan State.
Over the past two seasons Miller has averaged 68.5 hits and with that average in 2017 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 five seasons, including 2016 second-round pick Ryan Boldt last year.
NU 200-Career Hit Club
1. 338 Matt Hopper 2000-03
2. 305 Jeff Leise 2000-03
3. 281 Will Bolt 1999-02
4. 261 Darin Erstad 1993-95
5. 251 Michael Pritchard 2011-14
6. 250 Paul Meyers 1984-86
7. 249 Joe Simokaitis 2002-05
8. 248 Jed Dalton 1992-95
9. 247 Chad Christensen 2010-13
10. 246 Darin Petersen 1992-95
11. 242 Mark Kister 1985-87
12. 240 Alex Gordon 2003-05
13. 238 DJ Belfonte 2007-10
14. 234 Todd Sears 1995-97
15. 231 Daniel Bruce 2002-05
16. 229 Ken Ramos 1987-89
17. 227 Jake Opitz 2005-08
18. 226 Austin Darby 2012-15
226 Ben Miller 2014-Present
20. 223 Curtis Ledbetter 2003-05
223 Ryan Boldt 2014-2016
22. 222 John Cole 1999-01
23. 212 Pat Kelly 2012-14
24. 203 Ken Harvey 1997-99
25. 201 Francis Collins 1995-97
After making a pair of starts last season as a true freshman, Angelo Altavilla has become a key contributor in 2017. The sophomore infielder is tied for second on the team with 11 doubles, ranks third on the team in RBIs with 31 and is second on the team with a .313 average.
Altavilla has started 48 of NU's 50 games, and has shown versatility in the field with 37 starts at shortstop, nine at third base and two at second base.
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 42 straight games when leading after eight innings.
Led by pitching coach Ted Silva, the Huskers are 166-17 since the start of the 2012 season when they lead after the sixth inning. The Huskers are 173-10 when leading after seven innings and are nearly perfect when leading after eight innings with a 184-5 record.
Head Coach Darin Erstad won his 200th career game at Nebraska last Tuesday, becoming the fifth head coach in program history to reach 200 wins.
Nebraska Baseball Head Coaches with 200 Wins
1. John Sanders 767-453-1 (.629) 20 Years
2. Tony Sharpe 394-388-6 (.503) 31 Years
3. Mike Anderson 337-196-2 (.632) 10 Years
4. Dave Van Horn 214-92-0 (.699) 5 Years
5. Darin Erstad 208-136-1 (.604) 6th Year
Turn the Power On
Through the first 22 games of the year the Huskers hit just three home runs and didn't have a multi-home run game. The power numbers are starting to climb though, as the Huskers head into the weekend with 14 home runs over their last 28 games following a season-high three home runs three weeks ago against Omaha.
Last season the Huskers saw a spike in home runs with 43 on the year, which was more than the 41 they totaled in 2014 (19) and 2015 (22) combined.
Nebraska has totaled 10 or more hits 27 times in 50 games entering the weekend. Nebraska is 22-5 on the year when notching double-digit hits, the only losses came in a 7-5 defeat to Utah on Feb. 24, an 8-6 loss at CSU Bakersfield on March 21, a 7-6 extra-inning loss to Iowa on April 14, a 9-7 loss at Ohio State on April 28 and a 6-3 loss to Michigan State on May 12.
The Huskers produced a season-high 19 hits against Creighton on Tuesday, April 4.
Last season the Huskers totaled 10 or more hits 27 times in 59 games and were 21-6 in those games.
Home Sweet Hawks
The Nebraska baseball program is celebrating its 16th year at Hawks Field.
The Huskers have a 339-121-1 (.736) record at Hawks Field since opening the park on March 5, 2002 with a 23-1 win over Nebraska-Kearney.
Since Head Coach Darin Erstad took over in 2012, the Huskers are 110-43 (.719) at Hawks Field.
The Huskers posted a 17-6 home record this season, meaning they have posted a winning home record in each of the last 16 seasons. Nebraska has won 60% or more of its home games 13 times over the past 15 seasons, including each of the past seven seasons.
NU's worst home season at Hawks Field came in 2009, NU posted a 16-14 record (.533).
Where the Huskers Stack Up
Since playing its first Big Ten Conference baseball season in 2012, the Nebraska baseball team has annually been one of the top teams in the league. The Huskers have finished runner-up during the regular season three times, including last year, and are one of just three teams to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament in each of the past five seasons. The Huskers have qualified for every Big Ten Tournament since they joined the league and have been joined in the postseason each of the past five years by Ohio State and Indiana.
Six members of the 2017 Husker baseball team have previously been drafted:
Luis Alvarado - 2014 (Boston Red Sox, 33rd Round)
Derek Burkamper - 2013 (Boston Red Sox, 20th Round)
Sean Chandler - 2015 (Milwaukee Brewers, 32nd Round)
Chad Luensmann - 2015 (New York Mets, 39th Round)
Ben Miller - 2016 (Pittsburgh Pirates, 32nd Round)
Jesse Wilkening - 2015 (Arizona Diamondbacks, 28th Round)
The Huskers have been able to rely on two closers this year, reigning Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Year Chad Luensmann, who saved 13 games last season and junior Luis Alvarado, who didn't step foot on the mound during his first two seasons at Nebraska.
While starting 49 games in the outfield and ranking fifth on the team with a .279 batting average, Alvarado also leads the team with nine saves this season, putting him in ninth place on NU's single-season saves list.
Luensmann is close behind with eight saves on the year and his 21 career saves rank third all-time at Nebraska. Luensmann has seen an expanded role this season, also working as a long reliever. He enters the weekend first on the team in appearances with 24.
Huskers in MLB
A total of 12 former Huskers are part of a Major League organization, including five that are currently at the MLB level.
Cody Asche - White Sox
Brian Duensing - Cubs
Alex Gordon - Royals
Dan Jennings - White Sox
Tony Watson - Pirates
Ryan Boldt - Rays
Aaron Bummer - White Sox
Max Knutson - Orioles
Kyle Kubat - White Sox
Michael Mariot - Phillies
Steven Reveles - Red Sox
Josh Roeder - Yankees
Lean on the Lefty
Jake Meyers has been Nebraska's Sunday starter this year and NU is 10-0-1 on Sundays this season. Over his last nine starts Meyers is 7-0 and has gone 6.0 innings or more seven times, including 8.0 and 9.0 inning efforts.
Meyers entered his start at Cal Poly on Saturday, March 19 with 21.2 straight shutout innings and extended the mark to 25.2 innings after he sat the Mustangs down in order in the fourth. The streak came to an end in the fifth when Scott Ogrin hit two-run home run after Bradlee Beesley started the frame with a double.
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 ranks second on the team with eight saves this season, one behind Luis Alvarado's nine saves. Luensmann enters Friday ranked third all time at Nebraska with 21 career saves. Luensmann needs 10 more saves to tie Jensen for second place on the all-time list.
Career Saves at Nebraska
1. 33 Josh Roeder 2012-15
2. 31 Brett Jensen 2004-06
3. 21 Chad Luensmann 2016-Present
4. 17 Thom Ott 2000-01
5. 14 Steve Boyd 1992-93
6. 13 Casey Hauptman 2008-11
7. 11 Dylan Vogt 2010-13
11 Dave Matranga 1990-91
11 Gary Nolting 1977-79
10. 10 Mike Bellows 1994
Schedule The Best
The Huskers have played a tough schedule so far in 2017. As of Wednesday morning, WarrenNolan.com ranks Nebraska's schedule as 63rd in the country.
With a 32-17-1 record through 50 games, only three of NU's losses have come to a team with a losing record, including UC Riverside, Cal Poly and Ohio State.
The Husker are scheduled to play 13 games against teams that participated in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, including a pair of games against teams that were in last season's College World Series.
Nebraska has already played 2016 NCAA runner-up Arizona and CWS qualifier Oklahoma State at the Frisco College Baseball Classic in Frisco, Texas. Nebraska lost 1-0 to the Cowboys and shut out Arizona, 1-0.
So far this season the Huskers are 7-6 against teams that qualified for the 2016 NCAA Tournament, including wins over Western Carolina, Utah, Minnesota, Ohio State and Arizona.
Games Against 2016 NCAA Tournament Teams
- 3 vs. Western Carolina (1-2)
- 3 at Minnesota (2-1)
- 3 at Ohio State (2-1)
- 2 vs. Utah (1-1)
- 1 vs. Oklahoma State (0-1)
- 1 vs. Arizona (1-0)
Sophomore twin brothers Matt and Mike Waldron have played in the same game at Nebraska seven times, including six times this season. Against Kansas State Tuesday, March 28, Matt started on the mound and Mike started at third base, it was the third time both brothers have been in the starting lineup of the same game.
Last year they played in the same game once. At Michigan State on May 8, Matt started against the Spartans and went 6.0 innings, while Mike was NU's designated hitter, his first career start.
The last time the Huskers had a twin brothers on the team was 1994, when Glendale, Ariz., natives Jeff and John Strasser were freshmen. Jeff made 16 appearances on the mound, including nine starts, while John played the field in 25 games, including 12 starts.