As one might expect, there’s plenty of excitement for Nebraska to get outside and play on green grass. That’s definitely the case for coach Darin Erstad, senior pitcher Nate Fisher and sophomore outfielder Jaxon Hallmark. All three addressed the media Wednesday afternoon before heading to California kick off the sason against UC Riverside, where the Huskers will take ground balls on real dirt for the first time in pregame warmups on Friday.
“But that is no excuse,” Erstad said. “We have incredible indoor facilities and have been able to do everything we will need to do in the game. The guys will be fully prepared.”
Erstad also released the starting pitching rotation for the weekend, which will include junior Chad Luensmann, seniors Reece Eddins and Nate Fisher and freshman Colby Gomes. He expects Luensmann to be the 50-70 pitch range, while “Eddins and Fisher will probably get a little bit more and Gomes in that same category.”
The Huskers ended their 2018 campaign 24-28 overall and 8-14 Big Ten. They also missed the Big Ten baseball tournament. For Fisher, he has seen a lot during his career at Nebraska. He noted that even he was able to learn from a season like last year.
“As a pitcher, I just learned to continue to compete with my best stuff and never try to do too much,” Fisher said.
The Yutan, Nebraska, native is excited to showcase some of that strength this weekend against UC Riverside. He is also excited about the strength of the pitching on the team for 2019.
“We’ve got a lot of experienced guys coming back off of injuries and these young guys are hungry and excited at the opportunity to throw,” Fisher said.
Erstad also expects to see Kyle Perry, Matt Waldron, Paul Tillotson and Connor Curry in the starting pitching rotation this season.
Other news and notes from practice:
>> Fisher and Hallmark said the freshmen have pushed the experienced players to be better already.
“The freshmen are coming in and trying to win spots,” Hallmark said. “Even if they don't play, they are pushing the older guys to play better.”
While the younger players may be pushing for playing time, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few nerves. Erstad said he can detect them, so he does his best to keep things loose.
“You have to just laugh and smile and hug them and enjoy it with them,” Erstad said. “I will literally be laughing at them in the dugout just to keep it loose because you have to go through it. That is the beauty of it, the reason they are nervous is because they care, it means something to them. It's a growing moment as a kid where you just get better and I love it.”
>> During his freshman season, Hallmark learned to be flexible very quickly.
“I learned to play whatever baseball throws your way,” he said. “Most times I didn't know where I was playing until the starting lineup the day of the game so I learned to roll with the punches.”
Hallmark also doesn't expect to bounce around as much this year. With more depth in the infield, he expects to be in the outfield more.
>> Fisher mentioned that he is healthy again after missing five days due to a sprained ankle. He laughed and said the incident occurred in the parking lot when he slipped on a curb running to his car.
>> There will not be any ability to challenge plays in the Big Ten regular season. Erstad called it disappointing, but noted it’s out of his control. Frisco will be the only time that replay will be available to the Huskers until postseason.
>> When Erstad was asked what Gomes showed him to earn a starting spot, the coach had a simple answer: “Stuff.”
>> What does UC Riverside do well?
“I know one thing, they are going to scratch and claw they are a bunch of guys that just fight,” Erstad said.” Theyre going to give you everything you can handle. They've got a few guys that can really drive the baseball that we found out if you don't make your pitches theyre going to make you pay. They are going to have guys that are able to mix their pitches and throw strikes. Both of us are going to have some freshmen out there so it could be interesting.”
>> First pitch from Riverside, California, is set for 6 p.m. CT on Friday. It will be a four-game series, with one game on Friday, two games on Saturday and one on Sunday. All four will be streamed on BigWest.TV.