Lincoln may be covered with snow, but the Nebraska baseball team is only three weeks away from the start of the 2019 season. The Huskers are practicing in the Hawks Championship Center for the time being before heading west to warmer weather and their season opener.
Coach Darin Erstad, senior infielder Angelo Altavilla and junior catcher/infielder Luke Roskam all met with the media Friday afternoon to discuss the season ahead. Here’s what they had to say:
Erstad can tell the guys are ready for a new season. “I’d be lying to say that these guys aren’t ticked off and ready to get back onto the field,” he said. “Motivation is not an issue they are in a good place.”
Roskam said that the goals of making the NCAA tournament aren’t exactly talked about. “I think it is more of an expectation around here.”
“Leadership behind the plate” is also a focus for Roskam this year. “I really want to take my catching game to the next level,” he said.
Last year is in the past for Altavilla. “Last year wasn’t very enjoyable for me, I’m telling myself to go have fun.”
“Pitching” was the answer Roskam and Altavilla both gave when asked what made this team exciting on paper. Erstad also talked about looking forward to getting pitchers back healthy.
The young guys are good, but they are going to have to prove it. “They think they’re pretty good, were going to find out,” Erstad said. “We set up a tough schedule for them and that’s what they want. They want to be elite, well they’re going to have to be able to beat the elite. This group of young guys have a chance.”
“Just be Angelo.” Erstad said last spring that Altavilla was trying to do too much.
“Last year he was trying to hit balls 600 feet instead of just going out there and playing his game,” Erstad said. “He’s one of the best competitors I have ever been around. The guy is a winner.”
Erstad is “very confident” in Nebraska’s ability to play defense. “We’ve done it at a pretty high level since weve been here,” Erstad said. “Last year it was as bad news bear-ish as you could ever imagine, it was not good. We found many ways to lose, I can tell you this much though is that it was not lack of effort, they could’ve gone through the motions, but they were battling tooth and nail all the way, this team never shut it down and stopped playing. I like that.
“We’ve got a buch of fighters and we are healthy this year. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Erstad sees nonconference as an exciting challenge, providing an opportunity for the team be “battle tested” before conference play rolls around. “I love the challenge,” he said. “The older guys have won a conference title and the young guys think they’re really good. To be the best you have to beat the best and were going to give them every last shot to do that.”
Altavilla echoed that sentiment.
“We’re going to have to compete,” Altavilla said. “If you want to go to the Big Ten Tournament and Omaha, you've got to beat the good teams.”
Nebraska opens the season Friday, Feb. 15 at UC Riverside.