Regardless of Records
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Regardless of Records, Huskers Can’t Take Rutgers Lightly

May 04, 2017

Stop if you’ve read this before.

Or better yet, don’t dismiss the messenger and read on.

“I wish I could give you some fancy answer,” Nebraska Coach Darin Erstad said. “But you’re going to get the same thing. We treat game one as we do whatever game we’re at next.”

You know the rest of what Erstad had to say by now. It’s the same every week. In this case, the Huskers’ next game is against Rutgers at Hawks Field on Friday, first pitch 6:35 p.m.

Nebraska is second in the Big Ten, behind Maryland, which plays at Illinois this weekend, and Rutgers is ninth. The Scarlet Knights are 17-25 overall and 5-7 in conference play.

The Huskers are 26-16-1 and 9-5-1, but “not good enough to just roll the balls out and show up and think we’re going to win. Rutgers is a very athletic team. They’ve played a lot of great competition this year, and they’ve shown they can beat some good teams.

“So if we show up and don’t play well, we’re going to get beat.”
   
Michigan is among four teams right behind Nebraska in the standings, at 9-6, and two of the Wolverines’ losses came last weekend  at Rutgers, 6-3 and 8-3.
   
The Scarlet Knights “can put up hits in bunches,” said Erstad.
   
Rutgers has hit .278 as a team, just ahead of Nebraska (.270) in the Big Ten. But the Scarlet Knights’ pitching staff has the worst earned-run-average,  6.19, and they’re last in the conference in fielding.
   
As has been the case throughout Big Ten play, Jake Hohensee (5-2, 3.16) will pitch the first night for the Huskers. Senior right-hander Gaby Rose (3-4, 6.41) is slated to start for Rutgers.
   
So much for the repetitive part. Now for just a little levity. Erstad met with reporters after practice on Thursday – “May the Fourth by with you” for “Star Wars” fans.
   
Is he a “Star Wars” fan?
  
 “Not to the point where I’m going to tweet about it or talk about it,” Erstad said. “But if the kids put on ‘Star Wars’ . . . I’m probably going to sit down and watch it with them. Other stuff that they watch is a little questionable. I probably won’t sit down and act like I’m paying attention.”
   
As for growing up, “oh sure, I probably had the Millenium Falcon and a couple of (‘Star Wars) action figures, but to say that I’m going to wipe everything off the slate and celebrate a day of it, probably not at that level, (you) probably won’t see me dress up,” said Erstad.
   
“But I did wear ‘Chewy’ for costume day back a couple of years ago.”
   
The Huskers finished fall practice in 2014 with a costume-day intrasquad game and Erstad was Chewbacca. “So there’s some devotion to that series of movies,” he said.
   
Such levity was quickly set aside, of course. Erstad was back to focusing on Friday’s first pitch. And reporters aren’t the only ones who get the repetitive comments. The players do, too.
   
“I say it to them every game, every weekend, every mid-week, it doesn’t matter. It’s a constant message that I’m going to send,” said Erstad. “Yeah, it’s not going to be one of those things where I assume they understand that. I believe that they understand that.
    “
But I’m going to continue to tell them.”

DULY NOTED

  • The Huskers’ Chad Luensmann has earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors, with a 3.80 grade-point average in a mechanical engineering major. He is among six Big Ten players so honored. And yes, he’s a “Star Wars” fan. His favorite character? “I’m a big Darth Vader fan, I really am,” the sophomore reliever said.
  • Senior second baseman Jake Schleppenbach struggled at the plate early in the season, but he’s hitting .273 with two home runs and 11 runs-batted-in in Big Ten play and ranks third on the team overall with 25 RBIs. “The numbers weren’t pretty early on, especially with runners in scoring position,” Erstad said. “One of the big things I see is when a guy’s struggling, does he take it to the field? I think his defense actually got better when he was struggling (at-bat), which is a sign of a guy that’s as hooked-up as hooked-up can be.”
  • Junior Luis Alvarado leads the team with eight saves in 12 appearances out of the bullpen. His earned-run-average is 1.59 and opponents are batting .205 against him. “He’s handled some tough situations for not being on the mound basically since high school,” said Erstad. Alvarado, who starts in the outfield (primarily in left), didn’t pitch his first two seasons at Nebraska.
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