Freshman outfielder Mojo Hagge has worked his way up in the batting order this season. He batted ninth in his first start at Nebraska, the second game of the season; second in his second and third starts last weekend and lead-off in his fourth start, the final game at Surprise, Arizona.
The Huskers won that fourth game – he went 3-for-5 – as well as the first game he started. Going into this weekend’s three-game series in Frisco, Texas, Hagge is second on the team, batting .444. He has also walked four times and has a .545 on-base percentage.
Sophomore Angelo Altavilla, who’s played third base and second base, leads the team with a .533 average and .588 on-base percentage. Like Hagge, he’s moved up in the order, beginning at nine in the opening game and batting second to Hagge in the last game against Utah at Surprise.
“I had my plan, and I really liked what we were going to do lineup-wise,” Coach Darin Erstad said before leaving for Frisco. “But when things aren’t clicking, you’re going to mix it up.”
The plan was the have the best returning hitters at the top of the order: Jake Meyers, Scott Schreiber and Ben Miller. But Schreiber’s .250 average is the best of the three.
“Let’s just say what it is: they’re pressing,” Erstad said. “They’re trying to do too much. They want to get off to a great start and have a great year, and that happens.
“Especially when you’re facing quality pitching, you’re probably going to get exposed a little bit. We’ll be fine once everybody just settles down and just does what they’re capable of doing.”
Nebraska is batting just .243 as a team, with 51 strikeouts in six games.
“We’ll get it going,” Erstad said.
The Huskers (2-4) will face more good pitching this weekend, opening against Oklahoma State (4-4) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. They’ll play No. 24-ranked Arkansas (7-1) on Saturday, also at 7:30, and No. 14 Arizona (8-0) on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for noon.
Nebraska’s pitching rotation will be different this weekend as well. Derek Burkamper will start on Friday, followed by Jake Hohensee and Jake Meyers.
Relievers Jake McSteen and Chad Luensmann have earned the Husker victories.
The pitchers, like many of the hitters, have been “over-anxious,” Erstad said of the first two weekends, “trying to throw too hard. The emotions get involved, and any time you speed yourself up, your arm is stuck behind you and you’re up in the zone. If you’re facing opponents that are maybe not higher caliber, you can get away with some of that stuff.”
But the opposition has been high-caliber.
“We have guys that can throw strikes, and for the most part, we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that. But the quality of the strikes needs to get better,” said Erstad.
As last weekend went on, “I thought we had a little better composure,” he said. “Overall, there’s not one thing that’s glaring. We just need to be a little bit finer.”
Also defensively “we haven’t played like we can,” Erstad said. “But again, we’ve got a few new faces out there that are trying to get their feet underneath them and that’ll get better.”
As with the batting order, the Huskers are still settling in.
So will there be a set lineup at some point?
“I don’t know,” Erstad said. “I think we’re going to move some pieces when we face a lefty or righty, so that changes stuff. And you just never know when somebody might be dinged up.
“But you see, like, Mojo up there and he’s getting on base at a high clip. Put him up there in the leadoff spot and he looked just fine. So I would imagine he’s going to get another opportunity up there and we’ll just kind of see how it plays out.”
For more on what Erstad and select players had to say about the matchups, check out our videos from Frisco.