Huskers Head West
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Head West, As Good as It Gets Among NCAA Regionals

May 29, 2017

Nebraska didn’t have to wait long to find out it would be playing in the NCAA regional at Corvallis, Oregon, home to the No. 1 overall seed Oregon State.

The second-seed Huskers will play third-seed Yale on Friday at 3 p.m. (CT). Oregon State is matched against Holy Cross in the double-elimination regional’s second game at 10 p.m. (CT).

Because Oregon State was the top overall seed, its regional bracket was the first to be shown during the ESPN2 telecast, which the Huskers watched together at Hawks Field.

Sophomore Angelo Altavilla was looking at his cellphone rather than the television screen. “I was kind of caught off-guard because I wasn’t really paying attention,” he said.

He expected Nebraska to earn an at-large bid for a second consecutive season and the third season in the last four. “I wasn’t concerned at all,” said Altavilla. “I knew we were in.”

Coach Darin Erstad wasn’t concerned either. Then again, maybe he was.

“I mean, deep down, I’d like to think so,” he said. “But . . . of all my things I deal with as a head coach, this is probably the most stressful time, the 24- to 48-hour window where you just don’t know the certainty of where you’re going or if you’re in or not.

“But I felt pretty confident our guys had done enough to position themselves for an opportunity for the post-season, and it was nice to see it get done right out of the gate in the announcement.”

Regardless of the timing, “it’s always fun to see your name up there,” junior Jake Meyers said.

Given Oregon State’s being No. 1 overall, the 49-4 Beavers were the topic of discussion for reporters after the announcement came. Nebraska played them twice in Surprise, Arizona, in late February, losing 10-1 and 5-2. “To talk about games against them, we’re not playing them (first). We’ve got a game before that,” said Erstad. “So we will focus on that and entirely on the first pitch of our first game.”

Yale, the Ivy League champion, is 32-16, with an eight-game winning streak.

“We’re going to have to go do some digging and find out about them,” Erstad said.

Yale played Holy Cross six times this season, winning five.

Looking past Yale is “the biggest thing we have to overcome,” said Altavilla. “We have to look at Yale, and we’ve got to go out there and play Nebraska baseball against Yale.

“Yes, we’re in the No. 1 overall seed (regional) in Oregon State, and we’ve seen them before. But like I said, we’ve got to stay focused on that first game. That’s the most important.”

Nebraska, 35-20-1, won the Big Ten regular-season title but lost to Iowa and Maryland in the conference tournament after defeating Purdue in the opening round.

Iowa and Maryland also are in the field of 64, as are Indiana and Michigan. Like Nebraska, Indiana is a second seed. Michigan and Maryland are third seeds. Iowa, which won the Big Ten Tournament by defeating Northwestern in the championship game, is a fourth seed.

Five Big Ten qualifiers tie for the most in conference history.

“I’m not surprised,” Erstad said. “Man, has the conference really improved since we’ve been here. Two years ago, five teams go; last year, three teams, and now five again.

“That’s what we’re looking for, sustainability.”

The same can be said for Nebraska, which is making its 15th regional appearance all-time.

Altavilla, who got two at-bats in the Huskers’ two-and-out trip to the Clemson regional last season, had no doubts about playing in another regional.

“I just heard everybody yelling,” he said of “Nebraska” being filled in in the bottom half of the Corvallis regional bracket while his Nebraska teammates watched on ESPN2.

So he looked up from his cellphone.

“I was like, ‘Oh, there we are,’” he said.

After that “I can’t remember what I did. I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to Oregon State, that’s fine. We can beat them. We can beat Oregon State.’ But like I said before, we just have to focus on Yale right now,” Altavilla said.

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