Honors & Awards
Seven-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll Member (Fall 2000; Spring 2001; Fall 2001; Spring 2002; Fall 2002; Spring 2003; Fall 2003)
Probably no player is looking forward to the 2004 campaign as much as senior Justin Pekarek (pronounced puh-CAR-eck). Finally healthy after three years of elbow problems, the left-hander showed the vast potential he possessed before elbow problems sent him to the sideline in February of 2001.
Pekarek enjoyed a breakthrough summer pitching for the Santa Barbara Foresters and Coach Bill Pintard, compiling a 5-2 mark and a 1.41 ERA in leading the Foresters to a 51-10-1 record and an appearance in the finals of the National Baseball Congress World Series. The left-hander struck out 45 and allowed just 37 hits in 55.1 innings. For his efforts, he was chosen the most valuable pitcher in the NBC qualifying tournament and was chosen to the California Coastal Collegiate League All-Star team.
Pekarek continued his dominance during the Red/White Series, taking the win in game two with seven innings of one-hit ball. He struck out four, while allowing just three balls out of the infield. His strong performances throughout the fall give Pitching Coach Rob Childress great optimism that Pekarek, who was chosen as one of three captains for 2004, could become a major contributor either in the rotation or out of the bullpen.
"It is hard to believe that Justin is already a fifth-year senior," Childress said. "He’s spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears for this program, and being voted a team captain says a lot about how the rest of the pitching staff and the rest of the team respects him. He has seen nearly everything during his career, from pitching in the CWS to watching from the bench as he rehabbed his elbow.
"I think he is fully healthy for the first time since his freshman year, and that gave him a lot of confidence coming into the fall," Childress said. "He could surprise a lot of people and be in our weekend rotation, but if he is not, he will be a guy we will not hesitate to use on the weekends in relief. I think he is ready to lead our pitching staff this season."
2003 - Junior
Pekarek made nine appearances, going 2-1 with a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings. The left-hander made two starts and struck out 11 hitters on the season.
Pekarek, who missed nearly the entire two previous seasons with an elbow injury, returned to action with a scoreless ninth inning in a win over Louisiana Tech on Feb. 22. He did not allow an earned run in three of his first four relief outings before an injury to Jamie Rodrigue gave Pekarek his first start since Feb. 18, 2001. Pekarek took advantage, allowing three runs in five innings against Western Illinois on April 2 for his first collegiate win. The southpaw earned his second win against South Dakota on April 23, tossing a complete-game three hitter. In that outing, he allowed one run and struck out five in a game that was shortened to six innings because of rain. Pekarek helped NU to a shutout of Creighton on April 29 with a scoreless ninth inning before making his final appearance of the season against the Bluejays at Rosenblatt Stadium on May 13. He was on Nebraska’s Big 12 Tournament roster, but was inactive for the regional.
2002 - Sophomore
Pekarek took a medical hardship after missing the entire 2002 season following elbow surgery on Feb. 8, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Pekarek was diagnosed with an ongoing stress reaction in his left elbow and a titanium screw was placed in the elbow.
2001 - Redshirt Freshman
Despite missing most of the season with an elbow injury, Pekarek went 0-1 with a save and a 3.88 ERA in seven innings. He struck out six and walked two, while holding opponents to a .125 average.
Before the injury, he pitched a pair of scoreless outings, allowing one hit in seven innings of work. In his first action of the season against Lamar on Feb. 10, Pekarek struck out four in three innings of no-hit ball to earn the save. In his only start of the year, he threw four innings of one-hit ball, striking out a pair in NU’s 14-0 victory over UNLV. Pekarek left the game because of pain in his left elbow, and the injury would sideline him for most of the season. He began to return to health in time to earn a roster spot at the College World Series. Against Tulane on June 10, Pekarek entered the game in the sixth inning with NU holding a 3-2 lead, but he allowed three runs, taking the loss in the Huskers’ 6-5 setback to the Green Wave.
2000 - Freshman
A walk-on, Pekarek redshirted during the 2000 season. Later that summer, he pitched for Liberal (Kan.) in the NBC World Series, helping the Bee Jays to a national title. In his only appearance, he threw a complete-game six-hitter in a 2-1 win over Athletes in Action.
A three-year star for his American Legion team in Seward under Head Coach Steve Nesbitt, Pekarek had an outstanding final season, pitching 68.1 innings and giving up just 33 earned runs (4.36 ERA per seven innings). He allowed just one home run all season and struck out 88 batters. He went 5-5 on the mound with one no decision, while batting .405 with 11 homers. He was also a state qualifier in golf and lettered in basketball at Seward High School.
Birthdate: Dec. 4, 1980; Parents: George and Rose Pekarek; Siblings: Sisters: Jaci, Jodi and Jenee’; Nieces: Jazzmyn, Thea, Desirae and Aaliyah; Major: Business Management. Pekarek is engaged to Megan Rains and the couple has planned an October 16, 2004, wedding.