Nebraska Baseball is just ten days away from opening the 2019 season. To get things kicked off, Coach Darin Erstad, senior infielder Angelo Altavilla and junior pitcher Chad Luensmann addressed the media Tuesday for the Huskers’ preseason press conference.
The Huskers ended their 2018 campaign 24-28 overall and 8-14 Big Ten. They also missed the Big Ten baseball tournament. If you were expecting an overhaul from the Huskers from 2018 to 2019 though, that is not in the plan. Erstad needs to see his team in action first.
“It’s so funny this time of year,” Erstad said. “Everything is going great, but until they get punched in the face we’re not going to know what really happens. I’m ready to be done talking. It’s time to play.”
One thing that is different is the players’ mindsets. Erstad admits that’s what is said every year, but he has a group that’s “ticked off and ready to get back on the field.” As a result, Erstad sees a lot of fighters on Nebraska’s roster.
“So much so that I had to go over the fight rule with this team because I’m a little concerned that some of them might take it a little too far, but I would rather have that,” Erstad said. “Let’s just say I’m excited to get out on that field.”
That fight will be put to the test early for Nebraska. The Huskers face the defending national champion Oregon State Beavers in a four game series at the end of February, but they’ll get help from some new faces in a freshman class that ranked No. 16 in the country.
"They think they're pretty good," Erstad said of the newcomers. "We're going to find out. You set up a tough schedule for them and that's what they want. They want to be elite. They think they're going to be elite.
“Well, they're going to have to beat the elite."
In addition to the younger players, Erstad also noted that he has a group of veterans that have won a conference championship. That experience will hopefully prove to be beneficial down the stretch. Plus, Erstad sees the tough nonconference schedule as an opportunity to be “battle tested” by the time conference play rolls around.
As for what the players think, it doesn’t matter who is on the schedule.
“They’re people like us,” Altavilla said. “They have to pitch and hit, too”.
Speaking of pitching, the Huskers are also looking to rebound on the mound after an injury plagued season in 2018. One player that is especially excited to return after injury is Luensmann. Erstad described Luensmann as a “caged animal ready to be released.” As for Luensmann, he said he had to learn some patience over the last 18 months of recovery. He was encouraged though by the prospect of “better days ahead.”
In addition to Luensmann, sophomore Connor Curry and senior Reece Eddins are also expected to make an impact for Nebraska at pitcher this year.
Erstad gave no indication of a batting or pitching lineup yet, although he expects to have seven or eight pitchers ready to start games by the time the season begins. He also has yet to set a travel roster, but that will come soon enough. He — and the team — are ready for it though.
The season officially gets started Friday, Feb. 15 in California at UC Riverside.