The conference grind is officially underway for Nebraska (14-9, 4-2 Big Ten). After struggling to get on the field at Haymarket Park early in the season, the Huskers now have a three-game series each weekend between now and the end of May. That also doesn’t include several midweek games.
Nebraska has been up and down to start the year. Oregon State provided a wake up call early in the season, beating the Huskers four games in a row. Since then, the Huskers have recorded some quality conference and non-conference wins.
However, the Huskers did take a couple gut punches from Minnesota in a very competitive series in Minneapolis last weekend. Nebraska then drove through the night and returned to Lincoln very early Monday morning only to hop on the bus and drive to Manhattan, Kansas, on Tuesday.
Coach Darin Erstad said he was curious where the energy was going to come from for the Kansas State game. Jaxon Hallmark answered the call with an inside-the-park grand slam to provide the energy early.
“I haven’t done that since little league so yeah, it was a first with real baseball,” Hallmark said.
It came at a price, though. Hallmark said his chest was hurting and he needed a lot of water after rounding the bases. It turned out to be worth it and just what the Huskers needed in the 7-0 Tuesday night win over the Wildcats.
The turnaround time after the Kansas State matchup has been short. Purdue arrives in Lincoln on Friday for a three-game series. The Boilermakers had a great season in 2018 and bring a 4-1 conference record into the weekend.
Erstad commented on Purdue’s recent success.
“They’ve got a lot of youth,” he said. “It is going to be super important not to let them have a lead and get their bullpen lined up because they've got some dudes out there”.
Nebraska’s pitchers have shown that they are more than capable of showing up and taking care of business. It will be important for the Husker offense to step up and provide the runs that were left stranded at Minnesota.
“The pitchers are doing their job, but we as hitters aren’t doing our job,” Hallmark said. “It makes me feel bad because I know how hard these pitchers are working and how good they are pitching. Matt [Waldron] and Reece [Eddins] deserved to win this weekend and we didn't give it to them. We had runners in scoring position, but we just weren’t able to come up with the clutch hit.”
Nothing is going to change for a guy like Waldron. He said it is just about staying relaxed.
“At the end of the day we trust what we can do,” Waldron said. “All we can do is put our head down and get ready for the next one. We are confident in ourselves and we’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
First pitch for Game 1 of the series is set for 6:35 p.m. CT on Friday night at Haymarket Park.
Other notes from practice:
>> Spencer Schwellenbach is moving around and getting close to returning, but is unlikely to be available for the weekend.
>> Connor Curry appears to be out for an extended period of time.
>> In case you were wondering, Erstad has nothing against Wednesday. As in the day of the week. He said he treats every day like it is “just another Wednesday” and that this mentality is helpful to train his mind to get to work every day.