Northeastern, the Colonial Athletic Association tournament champion, is first up for Nebraska in the Fayetteville Regional. The Huskers and Huskies are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Friday. Top-seed and host Arkansas, the SEC champ and No. 1 overall seed, opens the regional with a 2 p.m. game against New Jersey Institute of Technology, winner of the America East Conference tournament.
The Nebraska-Northeastern game will be streamed on ESPN3.
Where to begin? Nebraska fans begin with the connection between Will Bolt and Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn, who coached Bolt for four seasons as a Husker, during which Nebraska went to NCAA regionals four times and the College World Series twice—the first times in school history.
Both Bolt and Van Horn were conference coaches of the year.
There are more Bolt-Van Horn connections, of course, but on to Arkansas, a dominant team, 46-10 (including 22-8 in the SEC), led by SEC Pitcher of the Year, Kevin Kopps.
The senior right-hander made 28 appearances, all in relief. He’s 10-0, with a 0.81 earned-run-average and 10 saves. In 66.1 innings, Kopps has struck out 105 and walked only 15.
Six other Razorback pitchers have at least one save.
Junior left-hander Patrick Wicklander is 5-1, with a 2.19 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 20 walks in 66.2 innings—11 of his 15 appearances have been starts.
Arkansas pitchers have a combined 3.80 ERA, with 586 strikeouts and 197 walks in 497 innings.
Junior Brady Slavens leads the Razorback regulars in hitting at .300, with 13 home runs and a team-high 60 runs-batted-in. Sophomore Robert Moore has also hit 13 home runs and has driven in 47, with a .278 batting average. He’s the son of Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore.
The No. 3 seed Huskies from Boston are 36-10 (20-3 in the CAA). The regional appearance is Northeastern’s second in the last three seasons under Coach Mike Glavine.
Like Nebraska, the Huskies are aggressive. They’ve stolen 119 bases, on 149 attempts. Sophomore outfielder Ben Malgeri has stolen 23 bases in 28 attempts, senior second baseman Scott Holzwasser 22 in 28 attempts. By comparison, the Huskers stole 64 bases in 78 attempts, second-most in the Big Ten, and led the conference by throwing out 13 runners in 29 attempts—opponents’ success rate of 56%.
Malgeri is hitting .288, Holzwasser .294, with a .443 on-base percentage.
Northeastern has hit .298 as a team, led by four players batting .341 or better. Sophomore outfielder Jared Dupere leads, batting .351, with 21 home runs and 48 RBIs, also team highs.
Redshirt freshman right-hander Cam Schlittler is 8-0, with a 1.72 ERA, in 12 appearances, all starts. He has struck out 83 and walked 19 in 73.1 innings. Senior right-hander Kyle Murphy is 6-1, with a 3.86 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 65.1 innings; he’s walked just 15.
All of the Huskies’ starts have been by right-handers.
Freshman Eric Yost, also a right-hander, has been the busiest of Northeastern’s pitchers, with 18 appearances, all in relief. He’s 1-2, with a 4.43 ERA and four saves.
Did you wonder what NJIT stood for when the regional assignments were announced? Now you know. It’s located in Newark, New Jersey, and has an enrollment of more than 11,000.
The America East Conference includes Albany, Maine, UMass Lowell, Hartford, Stony Brook, Binghamton and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
Coach Robbie McClellan’s Highlanders are making the first NCAA regional appearance in school history. They opened the season by winning only three of their first 15 games but enter the regional on a nine-game winning streak.
Senior infielder Julio Marcano has led the way offensively, batting .333 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs, all team highs. His slugging percentage is .595, his on-base percentage .435, also team highs. Sophomore outfielder Albert Choi is the Highlanders’ other .300 hitter at .313, with five home runs and 35 RBIs. Choi also has stolen 27 bases in 28 attempts.
NJIT, which has stolen 61 bases in 67 attempts, is hitting only .255 as a team.
On the mound, sophomore right-hander Ryan Fisher is 4-3, with a 2.77 ERA. Senior right-hander Tyler Stafflinger is 6-5 with a 3.77 ERA. Each has made 13 appearances, all starts.
Senior left-hander Jake Rappaport has been the Highlanders’ busiest pitcher, with 25 appearances, all in relief. He’s 8-2 with 10 saves and a 2.23 ERA.
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.