Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Going Deep: Alvarado Focus Turns to Mound

By Brian Rosenthal

Finally, Ted Silva is getting his wish.

Ever since Luis Alvarado arrived in Lincoln three years ago, the Nebraska associate head baseball coach, who specifically coaches pitchers, wanted the right-hander to himself.

Instead, Alvarado split time between playing the outfield and pitching in relief through this first three years as a Husker.

Then, the Seattle Mariners selected Alvarado as a pitcher in the 13th round of the Major League Amateur Draft in June, and it became apparent where his future is as a professional.

So Alvarado, who turned down the Mariners to return for his senior year, will focus solely on pitching as Nebraska begins its fall baseball season.

In fact, coach Darin Erstad is penciling in Alvarado as a starter, a spot he hasn’t held since his junior year of high school baseball.

“We’ll start there and see how it goes. It’s fun to think about,” Erstad told reporters before Nebraska’s practice Tuesday at Haymarket Park. “We probably won’t stretch him out anything crazy, but it’s a fresh arm that hasn’t thrown a lot.”

Erstad said the move is about putting players in the best position to succeed.

“I think it’s safe to say his future’s on the mound, so why not put him out there a little more?” Erstad said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Alvarado focused entirely on pitching this summer with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League. In seven relief appearances, he pitched 19 2/3 innings, with 18 strikeouts and seven walks while compiling a 0.91 ERA.

“I think it was a good decision, giving myself another full year of pitching,” Alvarado said of his decision to return for his senior season.

Scott Schreiber also turned down the Tampa Bay Rays, who drafted him in the 26th round, to play as a senior.

All fine by Erstad.

“Let’s go. Time to go. We want guys here for the right reasons, and obviously they had to turn down some money to do that, but we’re very excited to have them,” Erstad said.

“That being said, we’re back to square one here. There’s nothing that’s happened in the past, good or bad, that has any indication on this team. This is a whole new identity, a whole new group. They’ve got to earn everything that’s coming their way.”

 

Summertime progress

Erstad said he’s seen a troubling trend in recent years of some college players joining summer teams, only to quit after facing some adversity and returning home.

He’s happy to say he didn’t see that with his group.

“My challenge to our guys was to grind it out, whether it’s good or bad, and stick with it. Man, did they ever stick with,” Erstad said. “We had a couple of minor bumps and bruises where we had guys leave early, but they committed to it, stayed with their teams all the way to the end.”

Junior infielder Angelo Altavilla and junior pitcher Robbie Palkert had good reason for returning before their team finished its season. The fall semester started on Aug. 21, and the St. Cloud Rox were still playing for the Northwood League Championship.

Altavilla and Palkert returned for school and missed the final two games of the best-of-three series that St. Cloud won.

Palkert, a 6-foot-3, 186-pound right-hander, had a particularly strong summer. In eight starts, he struck out 44 over 42 1/3 innings, walked 11 and produced a 5-0 record with a 1.29 ERA.

“That was the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Altavilla said. “He completely dominated that league. He gets on the mound, he just has that mentality that nobody’s going to beat him. He mixes his pitches really well with his fastball and his changeup. I mean, nobody could touch him.”

 

Welcome back, UCLA

John Cook describes UCLA as a “vagabond” team at the beginning of the collegiate volleyball season, mainly because it doesn’t begin its fall semester until the end of September.

That’s enabled the Bruins over the years to travel everywhere and schedule some nonconference stops in Lincoln, most recently in 2013.

This weekend, the Bruins return to Lincoln for a rare doubleheader – 8 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center.

UCLA (5-0) has yet to play at home this season. The Bruins have swept through tournaments in Hawaii and New Mexico.

“We’ve had some great matches with them,” Cook said. “It will be great competition.”

Nebraska earned its first three victories of the season at home after starting 0-2 against Oregon and Florida. Cook was particularly pleased with how his team rallied in the first game of a sweep against Saint Mary’s College.

“To be down and come back, that’s something we’re looking for early in the year to give your team confidence,” Cook said.

Return to Autzen

Mike Riley and some members of his football coaching staff are quite familiar with Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, what with Oregon State, Riley’s former team, playing in Eugene every other season in The Civil War.

The quaint, 54,000-seat, one-deck stadium is famous for producing noise, and lots of it, despite is smaller capacity.

Riley is here to tell you any reports of Autzen being loud aren’t over-exaggerated. In fact, he ranks it among the top five noisiest stadiums he’s coached, including Arrowhead Stadium, the Superdome and BC Place in Canada.

“It’s one of the great, tough environments that I’ve coached in,” Riley said. “This is really hard, if you watch their games.”

Naturally, Nebraska has been practicing with piped-in crowd noise, not just this week, but at times in fall camp, too.

“We’ll have to be really well prepped up, because that can just mess up a game,” Riley said. “The communication to run a play and not get false starts is just a big factor in having a chance to win the game. So, you have to be prepped for that for sure, because it’s a factor.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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