Huskers Ready For Home Opener
Members of the grounds crew removed snow from the center field warning track at Haymarket Park as Nebraska baseball players met with members of the media on the concourse behind the third base berm Wednesday.
“You know how it is here,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said.
Indeed, we do.
The 2018 home opener is upon us, brown grass and 40-degree temperatures and all. But hey, it could be worse. It’s not as windy, and if the weathermen are right, Thursday’s 1:35 game should go off without a hitch.
“It sure didn’t look like that yesterday,” Erstad said. “But if the forecast holds true, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Nebraska (6-5) is seeking its 40th consecutive victory in a home opener. The Huskers have won all 16 in the friendly confines of Haymarket Park.
“I’m so blessed to play here in front of these fans that support us,” Nebraska right fielder Scott Schreiber said. “It’s a big advantage and something we take pride in defending our home turf here.”
After beginning the season with 11 straight games on the road, Schreiber (photo above) said he’s happy to sleep in his own bed the night before a game, and to be able to eat meals at the training table in the Hewitt Center.
Of course, playing midweek games at home also means players will be attending class until 11:20 a.m. before being excused to play ball.
“There’s not a lot of time to turn over and change gears,” Erstad said, while also noting student athletes these days do multitask very well.
Nebraska is coming off Sunday’s 10-9, 10-inning victory at Wichita State that salvaged the final game of a three-game series. The Huskers trailed 7-2 after four innings and 9-7 in the ninth inning.
What did Erstad learn from his team in that game?
“That we can do it, that they’re not going to fold up shop,” Erstad said. “I’m not surprised. You never know if you’re going to win those games, but as far as the fight in these guys, I’ve never questioned that. I know it’s there.
“I will say it’s nice to have one of those comeback-type wins early in the season just to know you can do it, build a little bit of confidence. When that time comes again – which it will come again – you know that it’s possible. So that was good to see.”
Schreiber, the only Husker to reach base in every game this season, defined the comeback victory as an “identity moment” for the team.
“Those first two games were pretty tough,” Schreiber said, “but just to see that we were able to come back and fight and keep on coming at them … that was a big identity moment for us.”
Nebraska plays its next nine games at home over 11 days, and Erstad is planning on “staff days” for his pitchers to cover innings.
“That’s going to require guys to pitch a couple of times,” he said. “The only way to do that is to keep their pitch counts down.”
That means some situations may arise where a pitcher is throwing particularly well but may be removed to save to cover other innings.
“You definitely have to get creative and find a way,” Erstad said “and we’ll just piece it together as we go.”
Matt Waldron will make the start Thursday against Cal Poly, which comes to Lincoln with a 5-7 record. The Mustangs were 28-28 last season and finished second in the Big West Conference.
“They can really swing the bat,” Erstad said. “They’re probably still trying to find some pieces on the mound. They’ve had a couple of quality wins this year, but they’ve also had a couple of tough games.
“They have some very talented players. We’ve got to be sure we keep the leadoff guy off base, and they’ve got some guys in the middle of the order who can hurt you. They’re not running as much and bunting as much as they have in the past. We’re going to have make quality pitches.”
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