Let the stretch run begin for the Nebraska baseball team.
The Huskers open a four-game pod Friday night against Indiana in Bloomington. Cade Povich, the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, will start the game, as he has the opener of every series this season.
After that, well, officially Nebraska’s remaining starters are TBA.
“I think if you start to worry too much about holding things back because you have four games, or because you have another opponent, I think you get yourself in trouble,” Will Bolt said.
So “you put your best foot forward to win the game in front of you,” he said.
The sequence of the weekend games, however, has to be considered. The second game in the pod is against Ohio State, the third Indiana, the fourth Ohio State.
The second and third games are slated for noon and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the fourth noon Sunday. The Big Ten Network will televise the first and fourth games, ESPNU will televise the third game. That three get national exposure reflects the importance of the series. BTN+ will stream the second game.
Indiana goes into the weekend third in the Big Ten, a game-and-a-half behind the Huskers. Michigan is a game behind in second place after taking two-of-three from Indiana last weekend.
Nebraska finishes the regular season with a three-game series against the Wolverines in Lincoln.
First things first, however, and the TBA’s for the remainder of the pod.
It’s one game at a time. “You’re going to throw your best guys to win that game, and then after that, you just kind of pick up the pieces and figure out where you’re going to go from there . . . I would say navigating the staff from a standpoint of maybe the fourth-starter standpoint, are you going to hold a guy back?” said Bolt. “We’ve done it both ways this year, where we’ve held a guy back, and we’ve also done it where we’ve just kind of done a TBA and just staffed it.”
The latter will be the case this weekend.
“It’s just, go find a way to win the first game and then figure it out from there,” Bolt said. “We’ll go TBA this weekend and just see who hasn’t been used the first three games and decide from there.”
Figure Chance Hroch and Shay Schanaman will start games, of course. And if he weren’t used in relief the first two days, Jake Bunz could be the fourth starter, as he was for pods early in the season.
But Bunz has excelled in 12 relief appearances. Overall, he has the team’s second-best earned-run-average, 1.86. Only closer Spencer Schwellenbach has a better ERA. 0.82.
Bunz will likely pitch before Sunday.
Max Anderson, the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, leads the Huskers in hitting, with a .340 average, five home runs and 27 runs-batted-in. Jaxon Hallmark (.338) and Luke Roskam (.336) also are hitting over .300. Roskam leads the team with 32 RBIs. Schwellenbach and Cam Chick each have 31.
The Huskers lead the conference with a .281 batting average.
Nebraska’s hitters will be challenged this weekend. They’re “going to face as good of stuff this weekend as you’re going to face in any tournament, any regional, any part of the country . . . as far as guys that have plus-stuff on the mound,” said Bolt.
Indiana’s staff has allowed the fewest runs (144), with the lowest ERA (3.16), in the Big Ten. Nebraska is second in runs allowed (156) and third in ERA (4.04).
The Huskers are familiar with their opponents this weekend, having split two games with each in earlier pods. So “you already have the basis for a scouting report,” Bolt said.
Ohio State is 19-16, Indiana 24-13, Nebraska 25-11. “These teams are all playing for something, very talented teams, and it’s going to be a dogfight each and every game,” said Bolt.
And so, again, officially it’ll be Povich and then TBA.
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.