LINCOLN — After all those exhausting offseason drills, and the rededication to self-improvement, and the hopeful clubhouse pep talks, Nebraska's baseball team ended its opening weekend without a win. Again.
Just last year the Huskers spent the winter months rigorously remaking their bodies and buying into a new coaching staff's culture — only to see absolutely none of it pay off in the season's first series as they were swept by Gonzaga.
It's a similar story in 2013. This veteran squad, bursting with optimism, opened the season with a weekend full of missed opportunities and uncharacteristic mistakes. Nebraska is 0-4, the most heartbreaking of those losses coming Sunday when NU blew a ninth-inning lead at USC. And, oh yeah, a tough three-game series against Texas is set to start Friday.
Yet there was Husker coach Darin Erstad before practice at the Hawks Center on Tuesday, upbeat and energized, fully confident that his players would have no trouble rebounding. He believes that they know how to handle this sort of thing.
“There's a lot of fight in these guys. They're not going to roll over,” Erstad said. “But at the same time, we're learning the lesson the hard way.”
That on-field lesson is simply a manifestation of something the NU coaches have been preaching all offseason: There's immense precision required for Nebraska to beat the nation's best teams.
Erstad says that means executing a rundown correctly, or completing a pitch out effectively, or laying down a bunt when asked, or getting runners home when given the chance (the Huskers hit .195 and struck out 18 times with runners in scoring position last weekend). Things like building on a lead late in the game to help your bullpen hold it.
“If we play good baseball and do what we can, we can be very competitive,” Erstad said.
And the Huskers believe they're close to doing that consistently, which is why no one's concerned about a possible early-season meltdown.
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The weekend was “frustrating” and completely bouncing back is never as easy as it sounds, said senior Rich Sanguinetti. But there's plenty of time to improve, and that's Nebraska's motivation going forward. NU has 52 games left.
“You've got to look at the big scheme of things,” Sanguinetti said.
Senior Kash Kalkowski said the fact that the Huskers have experienced something like this before helps, too. They started 0-3 last year, then won four straight and 14 of their next 17.
“We know how to get our morale up,” Kalkowski said. “We know what it takes. We'll get there.”
Erstad announced Nebraska's plans for its weekend rotation at Texas: junior right-hander Brandon Pierce (0-1, 22.50 ERA) on Friday, junior right-hander Christian DeLeon (0-0, 1.93) on Saturday and senior right-hander Ryan Hander (0-0, 5.06) on Sunday. Sophomore Kyle Kubat (arm soreness) will remained sidelined for another week, Erstad said.
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