Baseball Wraps up Historic Season

By NU Athletic Communications
Photo by Associated Press

Nebraska (57-15, 19-8 Big 12) continued its climb among the elite teams in the nation in 2005, and shattered numerous records along the way. With a school-record 57 wins, a Big 12 regular season and tournament title and the school’s third trip to the College World Series, the 2005 season will have a special place in the hearts of Husker baseball fans. From the opening pitch in Hilo in February to a heart-breaking extra-inning loss at the College World Series, this edition of the Husker baseball team showed a fighting spirit and the heart of a champion.

Leading Off
•-Nebraska is one of only six programs nationally to reach the College World Series in three of the past five seasons, joining Cal State Fullerton, Miami, South Carolina, Stanford and Texas. The Big 12 is the only league in the nation with more than one team in that group.
•-The Big 12, which ranked second in many of the pseudo-RPI conference rankings, placed a nation’s-best three teams in Omaha (Nebraska, Baylor and Texas) for the first time in league history. In addition, all three teams won at least one game in the CWS, another first for the league.
•-Nebraska had three players picked in the first five rounds of the Major League Baseball 2005 draft - the first time that the Husker program has had three top-five round picks in a single season.
•-With the 1-0 win over Baylor on May 29, the Huskers pulled off a Big 12 double, winning the regular-season and tournament titles in the same season for the second time in school history (also 2001). Texas is the only other team to record the feat, winning both titles in 2002, the year it won a national title.
•-The Huskers finished 33-4 at Hawks Field this season and are 110-23 (.827) since the ballpark opened in 2002. The 33 wins broke the previous single-season home mark for wins of 29 set four times (1980, 1988, 2002 and 2003).
•-The Huskers’ No. 2 ranking in Baseball America heading into the College World Series is its highest in any national poll since the 2001 season - a year the Huskers were ranked first for two weeks in Baseball America.
•-With the 2005 regular-season co-championship, Nebraska became the only school to win three regular-season Big 12 titles. The Huskers won outright Big 12 crowns in 2001 and 2003. The only other Big 12 schools to win multiple conference regular-season crowns are Texas A&M (1998 and 1999), Baylor (2000 and 2005) and Texas (2002 and 2004).
•-The Huskers have now won six league titles in school history (1929, 1948, 1950, 2001, 2003 and 2005). Mike Anderson and Tony Sharpe are the only coaches in school history to lead NU to more than one regular-season title.
•-Nebraska’s starting pitchers went a combined 40-5 this season and won 15 straight decisions until Johnny Dorn’s loss to Florida on June 19 at the College World Series
•-NU had 20 come-from-behind wins this season, including overcoming a four-run deficit against No. 17 Missouri on May 8.
•-Nine of Nebraska’s 15 losses this season were by one run, as the Huskers finished 11-9 in one-run games.
•-NU’s 57 wins broke the single-season record of 51 wins set in 2001 - NU’s first College World Series appearance - while the .791 winning percentage also easily eclipsed the previous best of .771 set in 1982. All three 50-win seasons have come in the last six seasons.
•-Pitching was a strength for the Huskers throughout 2005, as Nebraska led the Big 12 and ranked second nationally in ERA.

National ERA Team Leaders (as of June 22)
No. Team                         ERA
1.   Long Beach State         2.53
2.   Nebraska                     2.69
3.   Virginia                        2.74

•-Nebraska held 54 of its 72 opponents to four runs or less and its 2.69 ERA tied for the second lowest single-season ERA in school history. It also finished .03 off the Big 12 mark of 2.66 set by Texas in 2004.

Single-Season Team ERA Totals
No. Team ERA Year
1. 2.64   1965
2. 2.69   2005
    2.69   1969
3. 2.73   1966

•-NU has scored at least one run in 462 of the last 463 games dating back to the 1998 season. In 2004, the Huskers were the only Big 12 team not shut out, and NU currently has a string of 131 games with at least one run.  
•-Nebraska’s Big 12 baseball title marks the seventh conference crown by a Husker team this season. NU won Big 12 titles in volleyball, women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s indoor track and field and women’s outdoor track and field, while the Husker rifle team also won the Great America Rifle Conference title.
•-Alex Gordon’s selection as Big 12 Player of the Year marked only the second time a player has won two Big 12 Player-of-the-Year Awards (Baylor’s Jason Jennings in 1998 and 1999).
•-After having just one multi-homer game in 2004, Nebraska had eight this season, including four by first baseman/catcher Curtis Ledbetter and two by All-American third baseman Alex Gordon.
•-Nebraska had three players honored as Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week this season (Brian Duensing, Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain).

NU Puts Together Memorable 2005 Season
From being ranked 50th in one preseason magazine, Nebraska has enjoyed a steady climb to a consensus top-five ranking in the national polls and the school’s third College World Series appearance in five years.
• Feb. 17 - Nebraska overcomes an early 3-0 deficit in the season opener at Hawaii-Hilo - the first of its 20  come-from-behind wins in 2005.
• Feb. 25 - Joba Chamberlain strikes out 15 New Mexico Lobos in a 12-0 victory to earn national player-of-the-week honors.
• Feb. 27 - Alex Gordon’s eighth-inning three-run homer breaks a 3-all tie, as Nebraska defeated Rice for the first time ever at Reckling Park and the first time since the 2001 season.
• March 12 - Gordon goes 6-for-6 in a doubleheader against South Dakota State, breaking out of an early-season slump where he hit .270 in his first 10 games.
• March 13 - NU hits a school and Big 12 record five homers in the fourth inning in a victory over SDSU.
• March 29 - Johnny Dorn takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning, highlighting a 10-2 victory over in-state rival Creighton.
• April 8 - Andy Gerch scores on Randy Boone’s wild pitch in the bottom of the 16th, as NU topples No. 1 Texas, 4-3, in front of a sellout crowd of 8,485 and an ESPN2 national audience.
• April 16 - Johnny Dorn fires 4.1 innings of shutout relief, capping NU’s 6-4 win over Texas A&M, completing the Huskers’ first-ever series win over Texas A&M in College Station.
• April 23 - Back-to-back homers by Alex Gordon and Curtis Ledbetter propel NU to a 4-3 win over No. 8 Baylor, completing a series win over the Big 12 leaders.
• April 27 - Nebraska’s bullpen combines for 5.1 innings of no-hit relief to preserve a 4-2 win over Wichita State, snapping NU’s eight-game losing streak in Wichita dating back to 1986.
• May 8 - Jesse Boyer’s 11th inning walk-off homer gives NU a hard-fought series win over Missouri. The homer was Boyer’s first homer in 276 career at-bats.
• May 9 - Nebraska is ranked third by Collegiate Baseball, its highest national ranking in any poll since the 2001 season.
• May 10 - A crowd of 20,011 - the largest regular-season, single-game total in college baseball this season - is on hand to watch the rubber match of the season series between Nebraska and Creighton at Rosenblatt Stadium.
• May 21 - Joe Simokaitis becomes the Big 12’s all-time assist leader, passing Will Bolt’s school mark of 639 assists.
• May 22 - Zach Kroenke’s complete-game 3-1 win over Kansas State, coupled with Missouri’s win over Baylor, gives NU a share of its third Big 12 title in five seasons.
• May 29 - Brian Duensing and Brett Jensen combine on a three-hit shutout of No. 9 Baylor, 1-0, to sweep the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles, as NU fought back through the loser’s bracket to win five games in four days.
• June 5 - Zach Kroenke fans a career-high 12 Creighton hitters in a 10-2 win to give the Huskers their fourth regional title in six seasons.
• June 7 - Alex Gordon was the No. 2 overall pick by Kansas City - the first Husker player selected in the first round since 1995 and the highest pick ever for a Big 12 player.
• June 11 - Nebraska uses homers from Alex Gordon, Joe Simokaitis and Ryan Bohanan to sweep Miami in the Lincoln Super Regional to earn a berth in the College World Series.
• June 16-17 - Alex Gordon earns national player of the year honors from Baseball America and is the Xanthus Dick Howser Trophy winner.
• June 17 - Nebraska wins its first College World Series game in program history, a 5-3 victory over Arizona State.

The Class of 2005
NU’s eight seniors have enjoyed one of the most successful runs in school history. The group has helped NU to a 237-93 record (.718) over the past five seasons with three CWS appearances (2001-02, 2005), three Big 12 regular-season titles (2001, 2003 and 2005), two Big 12 Tournament titles (2001 and 2005) and four NCAA regional appearances (2001-03 and 2005). Members of the Huskers’ 2005 senior class include Jeremy Becker, Jesse Boyer, Daniel Bruce, Brandon Fusilier, Curtis Ledbetter, Phil Shirek, Joe Simokaitis  and Dustin Timm.

Husker All-American Trio
Three Husker baseball players have been cited by various publications for All-America teams. Third baseman Alex Gordon has been a unanimous first-team selection by all six organizations that have selected their respective 2005 teams. It is the sixth time in seven years that Nebraska has had more than one All-American.

2005 All-Americans
Player Publication (Team)
Alex Gordon Collegiate Baseball (1st); Sports Weekly  (1st); College Baseball Foundation (1st); NCBWA (1st); ABCA (1st); Baseball America (1st)
Joba Chamberlain Collegiate Baseball (3rd)
Johnny Dorn Collegiate Baseball (3rd); NCBWA (3rd); ABCA (3rd)

Gordon Brings Home Hardware
Alex Gordon lived up to the expectations of being considered the top player in college baseball entering the 2005 season. The junior third baseman from Lincoln finished the 2005 season ranking among the Big 12 leaders in every offensive category, including runs scored, walks, total bases, doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while ranking among the top eight in all 12 categories. Gordon was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 7, becoming the highest baseball pick in league history. It is also the highest a conference player had been taken since Darin Erstad was the No. 1 overall pick in 1995.

Gordon’s 2005 Honors
• Xanthus Dick Howser Award Winner
• American Baseball Coaches Association National Player of the Year
• Baseball America National Player of the Year
• USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch Finalist (1 of 5)
• Brooks Wallace Award Finalist (1 of  3)
• NCBWA District VII Player of the Year
• ABCA, Baseball America, Sports Weekly and Collegiate Baseball First-team All-American
• College Baseball Foundation First-Team All-American
• Big 12 Player of the Year & First-Team All-Big 12
• Baseball America National Midseason  Player of the Year
• Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week (3/21)
• NCBWA National Player of the Week (3/21)
• Big 12 Player of the Week (3/21 & 3/28)

Gordon’s Award Watch
Nebraska two-time All-American third baseman Alex Gordon is the 2005 Dick Howser Award winner and is a finalist for two other national player-of-the-year honors (Wallace and Golden Spikes Awards) that will be presented in the next week. Here is a quick lowdown on all three awards, including the other finalists and the presentation dates.

Xanthus Dick Howser Trophy
Sponsors: St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) and Xanthus Higher Education
Other Finalists: Lance Broadway, TCU; Cesar Carrillo, Miami; and Shane Robinson, Florida State
Presented: Friday, June 17th (11 a.m. live on CSTV) in Omaha
2005 Winner:  Alex Gordon, Nebraska

Brooks Wallace Award
Sponsor:  College Baseball Foundation
Other Finalists: Lance Broadway, TCU; Luke Hochevar, Tennessee
Presented: Thursday, June 30th at 7 p.m. in Lubbock, Texas (tape-delay broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest, on Monday, July 4th at 8 p.m.)
2004 Winner: Kurt Suzuki, Cal State Fullerton

Golden Spikes Award
Sponsor:  USA Baseball and Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA),
Other Finalists: Ryan Braun, Miami; Jeff Clement, USC, Trevor Crowe, Arizona; Luke Hochevar, Tennessee
Presented: Friday, June 24, 1 p.m.
2004 Winner: Jered Weaver, Long Beach State

Huskers in the 2005 MLB Draft
The Nebraska baseball program continued its historic season, as six players were selected in the 2005 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.  Five of the players were selected on the opening day, including No. 2 overall pick Alex Gordon (Kansas City), the first Husker selected in the opening round since Darin Erstad (No. 1) and Alvie Shepherd (No. 21) were both selected in the first round of the 1995 draft. Pitchers Brian Duensing (3rd, Minnesota) and Zach Kroenke (5th, New York) gave NU three picks in the opening five rounds for the first time in school history.

Huskers in the 2005 MLB Draft
Category                  No. Organization     Pick
Alex Gordon            1st    Kansas City    2
Brian Duensing        3rd    Minnesota       83
Zach Kroenke          5th    New York (AL) 169
Joe Simokaitis        10th   Chicago (NL)   310
Curtis Ledbetter      18th   Seattle            533
Brett Jensen           23rd  Washington      684

Two Earn Freshman All-America Honors
A pair of Husker baseball pitchers were honored June 8, with selections on Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-America team. Johnny Dorn and Tony Watson were among the standout performers named by the publication.
Dorn, a first-team All-Big 12 selection, finished his freshman campaign with a 12-2 record and a 2.16 ERA, ranking among the national freshmen leaders in wins and ERA.
Watson, one of only four relievers selected to the team, has compiled a 6-1 record and a 2.82 ERA in 22 appearances. The left-hander from Grimes, Iowa, earned his first career save in the NCAA Regional on June 4 against Creighton.

Husker Pitchers Earn Passing Grade
Despite having five pitchers drafted in 2004 - the highest total of Husker pitchers taken in the draft in more than 20 years - Nebraska’s pitching staff excelled during the 2005 season.
Nebraska pitchers...
• Led the Big 12 and ranked second nationally with a 2.69 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a league-low .227 batting average. The 2005 season marked the first time since 1969, and just the fourth time overall, that Nebraska finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. The other three times that occurred (1965, 1966 and 1969) - came before the aluminum bat was introduced
• Held 44 of 72 foes to three runs or less
• Led the Big 12 with a school-record 23 saves (by eight different pitchers) and allowed just 35 of 125 (28 percent) inherited runners to score.
• Issued a league-low 2.62 walks/nine innings, while ranking second with 7.53 strikeouts/nine innings.

Huskers Show Consistency in Big 12 Race
Nebraska has been the Big 12’s most consistent program since the start of the 2000 season. The Huskers have finished either first or second in the Big 12 in five of the last six seasons. Here is a list of top-two finishes by league schools over the last six years.

Top-Two Big 12 Finishes (2000-05)
School           No. Years
Nebraska        5    2000-03, 2005
Texas             3    2002-04
Baylor             2    2000, 2005
Texas Tech     2    2001-02
Oklahoma       1    2004
Texas A&M     1    2003

Huskers Dominate All-Big 12 Teams
Big 12 regular-season co-champion Nebraska baseball team captured a near sweep of the major conference awards, while placing 11 players on the All-Big 12 teams released on the opening day of the Big 12 Tournament at Bricktown Ballpark. The Huskers won the league’s Player of the Year (Alex Gordon), Freshman Pitcher of the Year (Johnny Dorn), Newcomer Pitcher of the Year (Joba Chamberlain) and Coach of the Year (Mike Anderson) honors, while claiming four first-team All-Big 12 awards, four second-team All-Big 12 honors and three honorable-mention all-conference accolades.

The list was headlined by third baseman Alex Gordon, who was selected as the Big 12’s Player of the Year for the second straight season. Starting pitchers Johnny Dorn and Joba Chamberlain join Gordon as Big 12 award winners, taking the freshman pitcher-of-the-year and newcomer pitcher-of-the-year awards, respectively. Head Coach Mike Anderson rounded out the award winners, as he was selected as the league’s coach of the year for the second time in three seasons. Senior first baseman Curtis Ledbetter was the fourth  Husker named first-team All-Big 12.

In addition to the four first-team honorees, the Huskers also placed four more players on the second team including shortstop Joe Simokaitis, outfielder Daniel Bruce and pitchers Zach Kroenke and Brett Jensen. The Huskers added a trio of honorable-mention selections with Brian Duensing, Ryan Wehrle and Dustin Timm also collecting conference honors.

It’s All Academic to Bruce
Daniel Bruce was honored earlier this month, as  he was chosen for the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American team.  A four-year starter for the third-ranked Huskers, Bruce carries a 3.86 GPA in English and is a three-time first-team All-Big 12 selection. A two-time academic all-district selection, this is first academic All-America certificate. On June 6, he added another honor, as he was chosen as the Big 12 Postgraduate Scholarship winner.

Bruce Named Nebraska Male Student-Athlete of the Year
Senior outfielder Daniel Bruce enjoyed one of the finest days of his four-year career on April 18. Not only did he go 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored in the series-clinching win at Texas A&M, but he was honored later in the day as the University of Nebraska Male Student-Athlete of the Year. It marks just the second time that a Husker baseball player has been chosen for the prestigious honor (Jeff Leise, 2003). An English major with a 3.86 GPA, Bruce is hitting a career-best .312 with 45 runs scored this season.

Five Huskers Named Academic All-Big 12
Five University of Nebraska baseball players were honored on May 21 as they were selected to the academic All-Big 12 team. The group, which includes four first-team honorees, is led by outfielder Daniel Bruce, who makes his third appearance as a first-team academic All-Big 12 selection. Bruce, who carries a 3.86 GPA in English, is one of four repeat selections for the Huskers. Relievers Jeremy Becker (agricultural engineering) and Dustin Timm (communication studies) both repeated as first-team honorees, while Phil Shirek (biological sciences) was a second-team selection for the second straight year. Junior Brian Duensing (English education) rounds out Husker honorees as he makes his first appearance on the squad. The Huskers have had 21 academic All-Big 12 selections in three years under Coach Mike Anderson, including 15 first-team selections.

Name                  Yr.   Major
Jeremy Becker     Sr.  Agricultural Engineering
Daniel Bruce        Sr.  English
Brian Duensing     Jr.  English Education
Dustin Timm        Sr.  Communication Studies

Second Team
Name              Yr.  Major
Phil Shirek       Sr.   Biological Sciences

Huskers Set Single-Season Attendance Mark
For the fifth time in six seasons, Nebraska set a single-season attendance mark, averaging 4,770 fans per game in 2005. Seven of the top-10 single-game attendance marks came in 2005, including a school-record crowd of 8,711 against Miami on June 11.

Average Attendance (1998-2005)
Year      Avg.   Natl. Rank
1999      953    37th
2000   1,148    32nd
2001   2,681    11th
2002   4,110     6th
2003   4,299     6th
2004   3,700    10th
2005   4,983


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