What a difference a month can make. Thirty days ago, Nebraska was fresh off of four straight losses to Oregon State in a series that wasn't very competitive. On top of it, the Huskers were confined to practicing indoors due to poor weather conditions in Lincoln.
We’ve now made it to the end of March, Nebraska is practicing outside and has won eight of its last ten games, including wins over Texas Tech and Baylor. Nebraska most recently swept Michigan State at home and defeated rival Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
All of this adds up for a big showdown in the Twin Cities with Minnesota. The Gophers have won two of the last three Big Ten Titles. The Huskers won the other. Both teams come into the series 3-0 in conference play.
What makes Minnesota a challenge for Nebraska?
“Northern guys like to compete and work hard, but I might be a little biased,” senior shortstop Angelo Altavilla said.
Altavilla is a Minnesota native and expects to have some family in attendance. While he had a rough start to Nebraska’s season, Altavilla got on base all five times he had the chance against Creighton. He said keeping things simple and staying mentally prepared is what got him through the first part of the season.
Junior pitcher Robbie Palkert also hails from Minnesota, but he said he doesn't look at this series any different.
“We see it as a business trip,” Palkert said. “I love going home, but Lincoln has become an even better home.”
Palkert is part of a pitching staff that has really flexed its muscles as of late. He pointed out the diversity the Huskers have with talented young guys pushing the older experienced guys.
“There is no reason this staff can’t be one of the best in the country,” Palkert said.
Coach Darin Erstad pointed out that Minnesota is a team that doesn't beat themselves. That means Nebraska will need to play a complete game.
With that said, the Huskers are on a six-game winning streak. Erstad credits the defense and being able to get outside and into a routine for that.
“I think we are really starting to play like we can and when you’re not helping create offense for the other team that is a big deal,” Erstad said.
It also appears that the Huskers have found a starting rotation they like. Erstad announced seniors Mike Waldron, Nate Fisher and Reece Eddins for the weekend. This has been a recipe for success early in the year so this could be a consistent rotation going forward.
First pitch of the series is set for 4 p.m. CT on Friday in Minneapolis.
Other notes from practice:
>> Freshman Spencer Schwellenbach is moving around, but still dealing with an ankle injury. He will not be available for the weekend.
>> Junior Chad Luensmann will be available for action on the mound.
>> Erstad confirmed he has finished the series “Making a Murderer” on Netflix.