Recapping Husker Baseball’s trip to Kansas to play Wichita State
Husker Baseball (6-5) traveled a state south into Wichita, KS to take on the Wichita State Shockers (8-1) in a three-game series this past weekend. Wichita State came into the weekend undefeated, recently sweeping McNeese State and UNO, while Nebraska came in 5-3, beating the competition they should and struggling against more prestigious programs.
By in large the same remained true this weekend for the Scarlet and Cream. On the verge of cracking the top-25, the Shockers took care of Nebraska early, winning games one and two over the Huskers in convincing fashion before falling 10-9 in extras on Sunday.
Huskers Heating Up
Zac Repinski (INF) – The Minnesota native was given his first real opportunity of the 2018 season to impress Darin Erstad and push his ballot to earn a starting spot on the team. Offensively, Repinski went 6-12 (.500) at the plate this weekend, including two RBIs and three runs scored on Sunday. His impressive display was highlighted by a home run in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings and put Nebraska in a place to come away with its only victory of the series.
Repinski, who is listed as an outfielder, saw some action at first base and second base this weekend in an effort to prove his worth on the diamond. The senior was able to hold is own defensively, consistently coming away with plays hit to the right side of the infield.
Mojo Hagge (OF)– After a slow start to the year Hagge shaved the beard and was only rocking the mustache in Sunday’s matchup against the Shockers. The ‘stache was 3-5 (.600) on Sunday, scoring three runs and acting as a catalyst for Nebraska’s offense out of the leadoff spot. One the weekend as a whole Hagge was 6-12 (.500), working two walks and scoring four runs. Having the Skutt Catholic alum starting to produce at the top of the lineup gives the rest of the lineup confidence and allows for more powerful bats in Schreiber, Wilkening, and Roskam to bring him home.
Per usual, Hagge was all over the field defensively. He acts as a vacuum in whichever corner he plays, constantly coming away with web-gem type plays. Husker fans will welcome him home with open arms this upcoming weekend, excited to see him come away with highlight reel catches.
P Nate Fisher – As a result of the Jake McSteen injury, Nate Fisher was thrown back into the starting rotation. Fisher had a start in the first weekend of the season, pitching 5.2 innings, striking out five and only giving up two runs (one earned). The following weekend Fisher appeared out of the bullpen for the Huskers, pitching two innings and giving up two earned runs.
Fisher’s second start of the year was not as friendly as the first. The left-hander gave up five runs off of eight hits through only 2.1 innings pitched. Fisher failed to record a strikeout during his time on the bump.
P Matt Warren – You know it must’ve been a tough weekend for a team when two of the three starting pitchers end up on the “Not-So-Hot” list. Unfortunately for Nebraska and Matt Warren, that is just the case.
Warren, who had a 2.53 ERA with nine strikeouts through 10.2 innings pitched in his first two starts, struggled mightily against the Shockers on Sunday. Through 3.1 innings pitched, the senior gave up seven runs (six earned runs) off of nine hits. It should be noted Wichita State is steeper competition than Washington State and Utah, who Warren faced in his first two starts, but the result certainly is not what Erstad has come to expect from him. Putting up worse numbers against a team like Wichita State is expected, but if Nebraska wants to compete with the best of them, this does not bode well.
What to Keep an Eye on: Nebraska’s Pitching
Nebraska’s pitching makes a return on the “What To Watch” list. Let’s hope making this list outlining the red-flags isn’t a theme for the Huskers in the 2018 season.
For now, Husker pitching is what has dictated the Big Red’s successes and failures in the early part of the year. Nebraska was dealt a huge blow losing Chad Luensmann, Robbie Palkert, and Jake McSteen from its group of hurlers. Erstad now has to lean on the starting rotation to do a bulk of the heavy lifting with an unproven bullpen behind them.
If Erstad and pitching coach Ted Silva do expect the starters to carry most of the load, this could affect how Nebraska is able to utilize Luis Alvarado. The right-handed pitcher is used on Friday nights in hopes to kick the weekends off with a win by overwhelming opponents with his power. Acting as a starter is a new territory for Alvarado though, only making short appearances out of the bullpen in years past. The expanded role could wear on Alvarado as the year goes on, only making conference and post-season play tougher for the Huskers.
Not only could the depleted staff wear on Alvarado on the mound, it could also limit his opportunities at the plate. Alvarado hit .283 last year and was a guy the Huskers looked to at the plate for consistent success. Erstad wants to use Alvarado at first base or as a designated hitter later on in the weekend after using him on the mound on Fridays. If the season does wear on the senior pitcher, Erstad may have to give him rest for the remainder of the weekend series’, which in turn takes out another threatening bat for the Big Red.
If Nebraska is to repeat its success from last year the pitching staff will have to step up. If guys can’t blossom in new, expanded roles, and if younger arms don’t make their presence felt, it could be a long year for the reigning Big Ten champs.
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