As part of our coverage of Clemson's regional opponents, we've been reaching out to fans of the teams that make up the Regional. Yesterday we talked to Cade from Cowboys Ride For Free about Oklahoma State. Today Keith from Corn Nation was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about Nebraska baseball for us.
STS: What were expectations for Nebraska coming into this season?
CN: Well if you ask the Big Ten coaches, Nebraska was not even expected to finish in the top six of the league this season. Over here, we expected Nebraska to fare a bit better. Nebraska only played three teams who were in the league tournament, while getting all five non tournament qualifiers. I would say, we expected Nebraska to be in fourth or fifth in the league, with a top three finish not out of the question. Nebraska was expected to slug their way through the league, since both the Friday night stater and Saturday starters graduated last season.
STS: Some of the talking heads seemed to think Nebraska was a real bubble team. What are your thoughts on it and do y'all think Nebraska deserves to be in the tournament?
CN: Nebraska was a bubble team due to going 0-2 in Omaha at the Big Ten Tournament. Honestly, when William and Mary got in with an upset over the University of North Carolina Greensboro, I thought that was the fork in the case for Nebraska. Oregon State had a better resume and got left at home, and North Carolina probably deserved to be in the field. The difference I think was the fact that Scott Schreiber was out for the last four games, with a groin strain. If Schreiber plays in the Big Ten Tournament, this team is a completely different team, instead of trotting out a DH that was a walk on.
STS: For those unfamiliar with Nebraska, what are some of the strengths of this team?
CN: You look at Nebraska, and nothing stands out, as wow they will blow us away. Nebraska is a streaky team who can get on a roll, and everyone is hot. Scott Schreiber if healthy, is the power hitter on the team, as he led the Big Ten with 16 home runs, including a pair at TD Ameritrade Park (lovely place if you make it!). Outfield defense is on the border of being elite, with Ryan Boldt being one of the top defensive centerfielders in all of college baseball, and Jake Meyers can cover ground when he is in the outfield. Meyers and Matt Waldron, a pair of high school teammates also make a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup.
STS: Also what do you think is the best way to beat Nebraska?
CN: Start a left handed pitcher. If you have a left handed pitcher, Nebraska will make them look like Nolan Ryan. Michigan threw three straight left handers against the Huskers, and Nebraska was swept, in a not particularly close series. Hit balls to Jake Placzek, especially bunts. While Placzek is a solid player, the Huskers really do not have a natural third baseman. Placzek has made key errors, which gave away games at Rutgers, and in the Big Ten Tournament to Indiana.
STS: Who are a few of the guys we'll see this weekend that Clemson fans should keep an eye on?
CN: I can't guarantee that you will see Schreiber, as he is a game time decision, so with that in mind keep an eye on Boldt, Meyers, and Ben Miller. Boldt who is most likely a top five round draft pick, has not lived up to his superstar reputation at Nebraska, and will be looking to go out with a bang. He had one hit in two games at the Big Ten Tournament, while Ronnie Dawson of Ohio State who is similar to Boldt had 16 hits, and six doubles. Meyers will pitch this weekend, after getting a week off, and he will have as much say in how Nebraska does as anyone. Meyers is not an overpowering pitcher, but he throws strikes, works in the mid 80's and throws a change piece around 70 that can make people look foolish. Big Ben Miller is a pure slugger, and when he is on, the Husker lineup can get awfully deep. Miller still stabs at too many pitches on the outer half of the plate, while getting tied up inside, but Miller will get his hacks in. If you make a mistake, Miller will punish it.
STS: Finally what is your prediction for the Regional? Does Nebraska have a chance at advancing out of the group?
CN: If Nebraska gets out of this regional, give Darin Erstad a raise. Nebraska will need to probably throw Waldron in game one, hoping for a close contest with Oklahoma State (who appears to have as terrible a bullpen besides Clemson). If Nebraska can advance to the winner's bracket, and throw Meyers who could give Clemson a different look, I would like their chances a lot more. Lose Friday, and you can stick a fork in Nebraska. Even though Nebraska does have two more good pitchers in Derek Burkamper and Max Knutson, a loss on Friday would likely spell doom.