The scouting report for this weekend’s series against Gonzaga will feature a few added details and maybe a little more in-depth elements, given pitching coach Ted Silva’s recent familiarity with the opponent.
Silva coached against the Zags in a three-game series last year while on staff at Loyola Marymount (won one of three). In 2010, while at UC Irvine, Silva saw Gonzaga three times as well (won all three).
We’ll see if it helps. There’s lots of uncertainty — mixed with enthusiasm, energy and excitement — within the NU program as it prepares to begin the 2012 season. A preview story is here.
The Gonzaga-Nebraska series begins at 8 p.m. Friday in Peoria, Ariz. No TV or internet streaming, but you can get the audio via Huskers.com.
A few leftover notes from NU preseason practice and season-opening series preview tidbits are below…
>> Surprised to see Zach Hirsch starting the opener? If you saw preseason practice, you wouldn’t be, according to NU players and coaches. The sophomore left-hander, now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is much more confident (especially when he throws his breaking ball). His velocity’s up. His command has improved. Specifically, Hirsch said, he pinpointed staying down in the zone and getting inside against right-handers as two points of emphasis during the offseason. … Remember, Hirsch did emerge late last year. He threw 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball against Texas A&M in Nebraska’s second-to-last weekend series.
>> Junior right-hander Tom Lemke (offseason shoulder surgery) is available to pitch against Gonzaga, according to coach Darin Erstad. Lemke, an eventual candidate for a weekend starting job, won’t go more than two innings, Erstad said.
>> Erstad spoke Wednesday about freshman lefty Kyle Kubat, who’s from Creighton Prep and is slated to start Sunday’s series finale. “He’s got command of all three pitches,” Erstad said. “He competes. He’s not afraid and he just attacks guys. He doesn’t act like a freshman.”
>> Sophomore pitcher Marco Gonzales is the Zags’ star, a potential All-American and the 2010 Colorado Sports Hall of Fame male prep athlete of the year. He went 11-2 in 15 starts last season, recording a 2.57 ERA and striking out 90 (walking 21). He also hit .291 and had five home runs at the plate.
>> A couple Gonzaga batters to watch (2011 stats): Senior infielder Eric Lane (.314 avg, 39 runs) and junior outfielder Billy Moon (.337 avg, 3 HR, 41 RBI).
>> Gonzaga, which went 15-6 in league play last year, was picked to finish second in the West Coast Conference this season.
>> The Zags started 0-5 in 2011, but improved a bit as the schedule softened. They won two of three against Minnesota, split a two-game set with Missouri and beat Iowa twice. They also swept UC Irvine.
>> It’s an important opening weekend for the Big Ten, which will send its other 10 teams to Florida (St. Petersburg area) for a 30-game event against nine different Big East squads Friday through Sunday. Could be an early chance to boost the league’s RPI.
>> Texas A&M Corpus Christi, a team that the Huskers will face at the Kieberg Bank College Classic next week, is hosting UNO for a four-game set starting Friday.