So “dog” it is for Nate Fisher.
“I’ll take that image,” Fisher said. “That’s fine.”
He was speaking, laughingly, after the Nebraska baseball team’s 7-0 victory Friday afternoon against Michigan. A couple of minutes before, teammate Jaxon Hallmark had called him a “dog,” adding: “The ball was handed to him. He had to do something sweet, and he did something sweet.”
Specifically, what Fisher had done was pitch six scoreless innings to earn the win.
Sweeet . . .
Before Friday’s game, the first of two, Fisher and the Huskers’ seven other departing seniors were honored, each presented with a framed jersey—No. 18 for Fisher, whose parents Rick and Nancy and sister Kelli were also introduced—and had a photo taken with Coach Darin Erstad.
“It was a pretty surreal feeling, senior day,” said Fisher.
Two days before, he had talked about the winding down of his career at Nebraska, if anything stood out. “Just this whole experience,” he said, “especially me being a small-town kid.”
Fisher is from Yutan, Nebraska, a community with a population of about 1,300, 43 miles northeast of Lincoln on US Highway 77. He played on cooperatives for high school and Legion baseball.
Dustin Timm, a senior reliever on the first Husker team to win a College World Series game in 2005, was from Yutan, as was Tyler Peitzmeier, who pitched for Cal State-Fullerton.
Redshirt freshman Colton Feist, a Husker football walk-on, is also from Yutan.
In any case, coming from a small town didn’t necessarily hinder Fisher’s development.
“I don’t think so,” Erstad said. “You have guys coming from big programs and played baseball their whole life; they’re all polished, and they get in front of the big stage and they freak out. You get a guy from a small town (who) might have some growing up to do or might not. I think it really just depends on the individual. I think everybody’s on their own little different development plan.”
Fisher’s development, though not planned, included Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2015, which sidelined him for what would have been his sophomore season in 2016.
It also included an “adjustment” this season, according to Erstad. “He shortened up his delivery a little bit, which allowed him to get his arm caught up in his breaking ball. His big thing was he was just tough to get down in the zone. By shortening up there he was able to get out-front a little bit more and be down in the zone and open up that breaking ball.”
The difference in his numbers has been dramatic. Last season he was 1-5 with a 7.24 earned-run average. This season he’s 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA as the second-day starter.
He got off to an impressive start in Big Ten play. In games against Michigan State and at Minnesota he pitched a combined 15 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits and two earned runs, walking one and striking out 10. He was the pitcher of record in the lone victory against Minnesota.
After a couple of forgettable performances at Iowa and Northwestern, with a solid effort in a lone win against Illinois in between, Fisher went 5 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and one earned run as Nebraska rebounded from a 15-6 loss against Arizona State for a 2-1 victory.
Husker closer Colby Gomes referred to him as a “dog” after that game.
Which brings us back to the Michigan post-game.
“I can be a dog if they want me to be a dog,” Fisher said.
Nebraska will need that when he pitches in the Big Ten Tournament his week in Omaha—and, the Huskers are hoping, in an NCAA regional after that.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.