Husker ‘Family’ Finishes Home Slate Against Michigan State
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Husker ‘Family’ Finishes Home Slate Against Michigan State

May 12, 2017

Alex Raburn last played for Nebraska on April 22 at Minnesota. He started at third base and went 0-for-1 with a walk before Mojo Hagge batted for him.
Since then, Raburn has watched from the bench, which is where he’ll likely be when the Huskers open a three-game series with Michigan State on Friday at Hawks Field.
First pitch is slated for 6:35 p.m. Jake Hohensee (6-2, 3.39) will throw it for Nebraska.
This season has been tough for Raburn, a graduate transfer from North Carolina who began the season as the starting shortstop then moved to third, where he started eight games, including the first one at Minnesota as well. Though he’s hitting only .146, he has continued to contribute.
“I call him my ‘big brother,’” said freshman Luke Roskam. “He watches out for me.”
Roskam has earned a place in the lineup because of his bat. He plays third base, a position he didn’t play in high school in Chaska, Minnesota. Raburn has helped him adjust.

“We talk a lot. We take reps together every infield. I talk to him about everything, whether it’s our approach at the plate or even just fielding tips, relaxing, telling me to breathe and stuff,” Roskam said. “He’s been a big part of how I’ve grown over the past couple of months.”

Sophomore Jesse Wilkening can say the same about Brady Childs, whose last of 11 starts this season was April 15 against Iowa. Both are catchers. “He’s helping Jesse out a lot,” Coach Darin Erstad said of the senior from Overland Park, Kansas. “He’s there for him (Wilkening).”

Raburn and Childs, who transferred to Nebraska after two seasons at Neosho County (Kan.) Community College, are part of the Husker “family.”

Erstad constantly reminds his players: “How were you treated when you were a freshman or a sophomore? Now it’s your turn to return that favor back.”

That’s what members of families do, even members like Raburn and Childs, who were freshmen and sophomores elsewhere. “It does sound ‘cheesy,’” sophomore Angelo Altavilla said.

“Cheesy” was from a question, not Altavilla’s choice of words.

Huskers quickly learn “these guys are all pulling for you,” he said.

That mentality has served Nebraska well. The Huskers, 30-16-1 overall, are atop the Big Ten at 12-5-1 and control their own destiny. Michigan State is 8-10 and 26-19 overall.

Finals are finished and the Huskers can focus on baseball, again a family affair.

“For sure,” said Roskam. “Everyone’s going for the same goal. No one’s really caring about how they’re doing. It’s more getting wins and playing for your brothers.”

He brought that mindset with him to Nebraska.

“That’s been my mentality growing up, too,” Roskam said. “It’s not about how you do. It’s about how the team does. You can get recognition and stuff for playing well. But I think it’s more wins that you remember, not how you (as an individual) play.”

Despite its losing record in conference play, Michigan State presents a challenge. The Spartans rank second in the Big Ten in batting (.289), on-base percentage (.380) and runs scored (300), and they’re first in doubles (102) and tied for fourth in home runs (42). Michigan State’s pitchers have a combined 3.74 earned-run-average. Nebraska’s is 3.53, second in the conference.

Upperclassmen helping underclassmen, “that’s what it’s all about,” said Erstad.

“That’s the message you send from day one. That’s what you try and do. I don’t compare years. We’ve had a lot of great, great guys come through this program. There’s not one class or one kid that’s made the difference. It’s a whole effort together.”

Like Childs helping Wilkening and Raburn helping Roskam.

“I try to tell him I appreciate him as much as I can, especially for all the advice he’s given me and how much experience he has,” Roskam said of Raburn.

“Man, I really appreciate that dude. He’s big.”

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