Humbled Schreiber Leaving Lasting Mark
By the time Jake Hohensee finishes describing the most impressive hit he’s seen off the bat of teammate Scott Schreiber, chances are, Schreiber will have topped that with something even better, so why bother?
Well, humor us anyway, Jake.
“I would say that ball out to right field last weekend versus Maryland, that outside pitch,” Hohensee said. “He kind of got jammed a little bit and just flicked his hands out but still is so dang strong he just put it over the wall. It was cool to see.”
That swing reminded Nebraska coach Darin Erstad why he recruited Schreiber to hit rather than pitch in the first place. Erstad loved Schreiber’s athleticism and aggressiveness, and he remembered seeing a special presence in the batter’s box.
Not that Schreiber wasn’t impressive on the mound that day when Erstad saw him play in person at Kimberly High School in Mesasha, Wisconsin.
“We saw him pitch after he threw about 1,000 balls at a football camp,” Erstad said, “and he’s still out there at 88 to 90 and pitching well.”
Too valuable was Schreiber with his bat, though, to keep him at pitcher.
Nobody can argue that decision today, as Schreiber plays his final weekend series in a Nebraska uniform at Haymarket Park leaving his mark on the program's all-time offensive charts. He and Hohensee, a pitcher from Lincoln, will be honored Sunday on Senior Day.
“It’s gone by fast, that’s for sure,” Schreiber said. “But it’s going to be a good weekend to reflect on the last couple of years, and hopefully we can come out and play some good baseball and just put it all on the line.”
Nebraska (22-24, 6-10 Big Ten Conference) is fighting simply to make the Big Ten Tournament as it hosts Indiana (31-14, 9-8) in the Huskers' second-to-final conference series of the season.
No, it’s not the scenario Schreiber envisioned when he returned for his senior season despite being drafted in the 26th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. Yet the even-keeled Schreiber continues to produce and climb the Nebraska offensive charts at a rate that will make him one of the most decorated players in school history.
“I’m just trying my best to give my best to the team so we have our best chance of winning games,” Schreiber said. “Obviously, we didn’t expect some of the things that happened that have happened this year, but that’s out of our control. The only thing we can do as players is prepare and come out each and every day and be better.”
Schreiber’s .382 batting average, 73 hits, 56 runs scored and 18 home runs are all team bests. With eight more hits, he will catch his coach for No. 4 on Nebraska’s career hit list with 261, a mark Erstad set in 1995.
With 44 career home runs, Schreiber is tied with Alex Gordon for No. 4 on Nebraska’s career list. He needs two homers to tie Dan Johnson for No. 3, and four to tie Bobby Benjamin for No. 2. (Matt Hopper has a stranglehold on the career home run list with a program-best 64.)
“That’s just very humbling to be able to up there with those types of guys, those names,” Schreiber said. “It’s something I didn’t think I’d ever accomplish here at Nebraska.”
Erstad only wonders the numbers Schreiber could’ve produced had he stayed injury-free throughout his career.
“Just a wonderful human being, graduated in four years, goes out there and is just a special player, special person,” Erstad said. “It’s been a pleasure to be around him, and he’s going to go down as one of the best players to ever play here.”
Schreiber is thankful to have learned a thing or two about hitting from Erstad, himself one of the best players in school history who had a productive Major League career with the Angels, with whom he won a World Series.
“Coach Erstad has been huge,” Schreiber said. “He’s obviously done it here, he’s done it at the pro level. He’s someone I can pick his brain, and I’ll continue to do that as long as I can. He’s got a lot of knowledge in the game, and I continue to learn off that.”
Erstad said Schreiber’s pitch selection has improved the most of anything throughout his career.
“He’s about the only person who can get himself out,” Erstad said. “He expands. That’s his thing. He’s going to be an aggressive hitter. I get that. When he expands and chases out of the zone, he’s going to struggle a little bit. When he’s swinging at strikes and hunting elevation, oh my goodness, look out.”
A Friday night starter last season, Hohensee has adapted well to the closer’s role in his final season with Nebraska.
Entering the weekend, Hohensee had a team-high 11 saves with 11 hits and three runs in 20 innings. He’s struck out 19 and walked only three.
“Starting was fun,” he said, “but closing, I think, is a little bit more fun.”
A self-described “adrenaline guy,” Hohensee said he may be better suited for his current role, where the adrenaline rush doesn’t wear off after an inning.
“That’s all you need it for as a closer,” he said.
Erstad agreed, saying Hohensee’s personality and makeup made him a good fit in the bullpen. He also sees a future for Hohensee there.
“He stays healthy, I think he could go very quickly through the minor leagues with the stuff that he has,” Erstad said, “because I think he’s got another level in him.”
Hohensee admitted he “might tear up a little bit” with the emotional weekend, what with him playing his final home series, and Nebraska fighting for its postseason life.
Schreiber said he expects a flood of memories as he leaves his legacy.
“Someone who loved to play the game, someone who has passion for the game, someone who loved to compete, gave back to the community, like to be a part of Nebraska Husker nation, are some things I hope I’m remembered for,” Schreiber said.
“Just getting this opportunity to play at this university, I’m very humbled and blessed to be able to be a part of this with a great coaching staff, great fans, great facilities, great community – everything altogether. It’s been a great time, and I’m very happy to be able to experience it all.”
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.