Nebraska’s recent struggles appear to have taken their toll. The latest projections from D1baseball.com have Nebraska as one of the last five teams out of the NCAA Tournament. It’s a steep decline for the Huskers, who were previously projected to place as high as a No. 2 seed.
However, one could argue NU has actually exceeded expectations in 2019, given that they were picked to place sixth in the Big 10 conference in the preseason rankings. Currently, Nebraska is in third place in the conference standings but that’s still a far cry from what NU head coach Darin Erstad envisions for his team.
“I personally think we haven’t played our best baseball,” Erstad told reporters before Nebraska’s practice on Thursday. Although the Huskers were able to salvage something from their series against Northwestern on Monday with a win, they still lost the series to the Wildcats. Before that, NU lost their series against Illinois and Iowa, and also lost to both Creighton and K-State, all in the month of April.
“I don’t think that we’ve sustained what we’re capable of offensively,” Erstad said. “To say we overachieved… If anything, we’ve underachieved. I think there’s more in there.”
With just two more regular season series remaining against Pac-12 foe Arizona State and the first placed team in the Big 10 (Michigan) looming, Nebraska will need to get things figured out quick if they still have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament.
“Like I tell them all the time, these are the type of teams that you have to be able to play with if you want to get anywhere,” Erstad said. “We’re just going to keep on bringing them at them.”
After beginning the season 21-0, the Sun Devils have had a few stumbles along the way in their competitive conference schedule, but that doesn’t mean ASU will be heading into Haymarket Park with any trepidation. Erstad said it might take mother nature to keep Arizona State at bay.
“Well, pray for the wind to be blowing in, which it’s not going to be” Erstad said. “You just have to make quality pitches. You’re going to take some lumps. You got to be able to get on the next pitch and get ready to go.”
Having a little bit of momentum to work will be helpful if the Huskers are going to be successful down the home stretch, freshman outfielder Aaron Palensky said. “I really hope that we can ride the wave of momentum. I hope that game really woke up the sticks. I think we came away with 10 plus hits (they had 13) so I really hope we can build off that.”
Nebraska’s series against Arizona State starts on Friday. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. but coverage will begin at 6 p.m. on KLIN.
(Photo – Kenny Larabee)