The Nebraska baseball team boarded a charter flight to Corvallis, Oregon, at the Lincoln Municipal Airport on Wednesday afternoon. You probably know the unique circumstance by now.
The flight already included teams from Holy Cross and Yale, schools located 100 miles apart, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, respectively.
Nebraska plays Yale in the opening game of the NCAA regional to which Oregon State plays host beginning on Friday. Holy Cross plays the No. 1-national-seed Beavers in the second game.
Traveling with the opposition was a bit out of the ordinary, though the Husker football team traveled with Kansas State to Tokyo for the Japan Bowl in early December of 1992.
“I’ve never even heard of that,” said Nebraska junior Jake Hohensee. “It’s nice of them to pick us up.”
Actually, the NCAA makes travel arrangements. Regardless, “that’s baseball, man,” Coach Darin Erstad said. “There’s all kinds of baseball stuff, whatever. All I know is we don’t have to go through security in (the) airport, have a layover in Los Angeles and Denver and wherever else we’d have to go. Sometimes these trips in the regionals can be quite interesting.”
And taxing. “So I’m totally cool with them coming and picking us up,” he said.
Senior Jake Schleppenbach echoed Hohensee and Erstad. He was “definitely happy to be flying charter instead of having to deal with airports and TSA and all that stuff,” he said.
His plan was to settle in, watch a movie on his tablet and “maybe fall asleep,” said Schleppenbach. “So I don’t anticipate it being much different than any other flight.”
Once the Huskers got to Corvallis, it was all business for Nebraska, figuring out how to win on Friday, which means starting over, according to Erstad. “This time of year everybody can pitch and play defense,” he said. Success depends on “who gets hot with the bats. We were cold last year.”
Nebraska lost back-to-back games in the Clemson Regional, 6-0 to Oklahoma State and 4-1 to Western Carolina. The Huskers were out-hit by a combined 26-11.
“Hopefully we get hot now,” Erstad said. “But just when you think you’ve got it going, you’re all confident as a group, things tend to come your way and throw you a little bit of a wrinkle. So again, we’re taking it pitch-by-pitch. I don’t get into how we’ve been swinging it, how we haven’t been swinging it or what we’ve been doing. It all starts over, man.
“Nothing you’ve done up to this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re undefeated or if you won your conference and that’s all the games you won. It doesn’t matter. This is a whole new ballgame.”
Erstad wasn’t ready to name Nebraska’s starter for Friday. But Hohensee, who has been the Friday-night starter throughout the season, said Jake Meyers would start.
“We’ll see tomorrow where everybody’s at,” Erstad said. “Is there a good chance he’s going to start? Sure. But he’s also been dealing with some stuff, so to sit here and say that’s exactly what’s going to happen, I can’t tell you right now. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
If the regional had been less than 400 miles away, Nebraska would’ve had to take a bus. That’s the NCAA rule. “This’ll be a little different,” said Schleppenbach.
Hohensee might have spent time during the flight talking with players on the other teams, “have a good laugh and stuff like that before we get down to business. It is an odd situation, but we just like to make travel plans as fun as possible. We don’t care who’s with us or around us.
“We’re going to have fun either way.”
After that, the business of preparing to win began.
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.