Husker Baseball

Week 4 Recap

The Huskers dropped their first Big XII series of the season 1-2 this week in Lubbock against the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.  As I’ve said before, this year’s team is young and inexperienced, especially on the mound.  There are going to be stretches where this team looks great and some stretches where Coach Anderson will lose hair on his head. The good news is the talent seems to be there and as the players learn Division I baseball, they will get better and more consistent. 

The last two weeks combined are probably a sample of what we’ll see all year.  Last week the pitching was good and the hitting was even better.  This week, the hitting was still solid, but the pitching, especially the bullpen, was hit or miss.  Again, this was to be expected.  None of Nebraska’s starters (Nesseth, Roualdes, and Mariot) saw any significant time as a starter last year and most of our main core of relievers either weren’t in a Husker uniform last year or very part-time players.  The Big XII is a great league this year and there are going to be some times where our youth is exposed. 

The 17 walks on the weekend (often a sign of young pitching) played a big part and while it’s tough to work on mid-season, it will have to be a point of focus for this coaching staff.  Even though we’ve seen some consistent scoring from the offense so far, I doubt that the coaches are comfortable being in a slugfest week in a week out.

Nebraska 8 - Texas Tech 16 (Game 1)
After a rainout on Friday, the Huskers opened the series with a double-header on Saturday.  In the first game, everything looked to be going the Huskers way to open the series with a Friday night “W”.  In the 7th inning, the Huskers held a 6-4 lead, the “Ace” of the staff Mike Nesseth is on the hill.  However, after Nesseth allowed the leadoff runner to reach, Eric Rose, Casey Hauptman, and Matt Freeman couldn’t stop the Red Raiders.  The trio combined for just 1 out, allowed 6 runs (5 earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks that allowed Texas Tech to blow the game wide open 11-6.  The Huskers got a couple back in the top of the 8th, but the Red Raiders struck back in the bottom of the frame with 5 more runs (2 unearned), putting the game out of reach.   Nick Sullivan powered the offense with a 3 for 5, 2-run and 2-rbi day that included a pair of doubles.  Tyler Farst also contributed with a 2 for 3 day with an RBI and 2 runs.

Nebraska 10 - Texas Tech 1
Fortunately for the Huskers, Jordan Roualdes quickly helped the team forget about the  woes of the first game.  Roualdes scatted 5 hits, allowed 1 run and struck out 3 and it was just what the team needed to recover from the pasting the pitching staff received the game before.  Adam Bailey powered the offense once again with a 2-run homerun and a 2-run double.  Jeff Tezak chipped in 2 RBIs and Cory Burleson went 2 for 3 and scored twice.

Nebraska 3 - Texas Tech 10
Again, Nebraska seemed to be cruising.  They had already posted 2 runs against Texas Tech ace AJ Ramos and in the bottom of the 4th, Mariot seemed to be able to get out of the small jams he had been in up to that point.  Over the next 4 innings, Texas Tech scored all 10 of their runs, all of which came with 2 out in the inning.  Had the Husker pitching staff been able to record 4 outs when they needed, they would have shut out the Red Raiders and won the series.  Adam Bailey chipped in a 2 for 4 day with 2 runs and an RBI and his 8th homerun of the year.  Tyler Farst also continued his offensive tear with his own 2 for 4 day and 2 RBIs.

A look back: The Good

Adam Bailey- At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s amazing what Adam’s done for the offense so far this year.  He still leads the Big XII in homeruns with 8 and also leads the Big XII in RBIs with 28.  I’m pretty sure that most Husker fans (this one included) would not have expected to have anyone in the lineup leading either category 4 weeks into the season.  He is flat out swinging a hot bat and the rest of the team is responding.
Nick Sullivan - Coming into the weekend, Sullivan only held a .182 average, Nick broke out a little this weekend, posting a .385 average raising his overall average to .235.
Jordan Roualdes - Especially with the way the rest of the weekend went for the Husker pitching staff, it’s tough to put into words the importance of Roualdes’ dominating performance in game 2 on Saturday.  Roualdes held the Red Raiders to just a single run and chewed up 8 innings giving the young bullpen a much needed rest after the pasting they received earlier in the day.  Roualdes has been pretty solid all year, but this was definitely his best outing yet.
Jake Mort - With the emergence of Cody Asche, the senior has taken more of a late-game defensive replacement role for the Huskers.  However, Jake made the most of his few opportunities against the Red Raiders.  In just 3 plate appearances, Jake posted 2 doubles and a single, driving in 2 and scoring twice himself.  If Jake can prove himself a capable hitter, expect to see him on the field a lot as his glove is probably the best on the team.  However, Coach Anderson will want to find somewhere for Asche as he leads the team with a .390 average.
Nebraska Hitters - It’s been a long time since Nebraska has been an offensive team, but it should be pointed out that this year’s team is 4th in the Big XII in average (.301) and 6 regular players have posted an average greater than .300 (Asche .390, Bubak .389, Burleson .371, Bailey .364, Farst .364, Tezak .320).

A look back: The Not So Good

WALKS - 17 free passes over a 3-day weekend is unacceptable in the Big XII.  While it’s something you would expect from a young pitching staff, it’s also something that this group needs to find a way to fix ASAP.  On the season, the Huskers are giving up 4.99 walks per game.  Compared to last year’s 3.31, it’s easy to see part of the reason why this year’s staff has struggled so far.
Cody Neer - After tearing the cover off the ball a week ago, Cody went 0 for 6 against the Red Raiders.  With the hot bat Burleson is swinging, Neer needs to recover quickly or he’ll be relegated to the backup role.
Ben Kline - With a 1 for 9 performance at the plate and a pair of errors in Friday night’s game, Ben probably would like to forget this weekend and move on to the next.

Overall Grade: C+
The weekend wasn’t all bad as the offense still managed to produce 21 runs and the pitching staff really, outside of a few key moments was pretty good.  Had they been able to sew up 2 innings in the first game and get 4 outs at the right time in the 3rd game we’d be talking about a sweep instead of a Big XII opening losing record.  One thing baseball fans have learned over the years is not to put too much stock in any one weekend or even any one 5-10 game stretch.  This will be especially important this year as I’m guessing sometimes it will seem like we could make a run possibly into Omaha and other times it will look like we could stay home during the playoffs for just the 2nd time in 11 years.

The Huskers travel to Fayetteville Arkansas to face a familiar face to Husker fans in Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks in a Tuesday/Wednesday matchup before heading back home to face Oklahoma State in the familiar confines of Hawks Field.  It should be interesting to see how the pitching staff responds as Arkansas is a very solid team and Oklahoma State is 3rd in the Big XII in runs scored.

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