Nebraska will be without its closer for the second straight series. Junior Travis Huber’s sore shoulder is keeping him sidelined.
Tough blow for the NU pitching staff, which will face a significant challenge in matching the effort of Minnesota’s talented hurlers at Haymarket Park this weekend.
The hope is that Huber — whose fastball-changeup combo has been effective against opponents all year — will be healthy enough to return in time for the Huskers’ final league series against Michigan in a week. Coach Darin Erstad’s not sure, though.
“We’re shooting for hopefully getting him back by Michigan,” Erstad said. “We’re playing without him and we’ve got to make do.”
Huber hasn’t pitched since April 24 against Creighton.
Pitching is certainly the key for NU this weekend, as I wrote in Friday’s edition of the World-Herald. A few more pre-series notes are below. Enjoy.
>> What does Nebraska need to do to make the Big Ten tournament? It’s probably too early to start posting potential scenarios (we’ll save that for next week). At this point, the Huskers — tied for seventh place — simply need to focus on winning this weekend’s series. With Indiana (11-7 in the Big Ten) playing at Northwestern (5-16) and Michigan State (10-8) hosting Iowa (7-11), it’s ideal for NU to remain within striking distance of second place.
>> I served as a co-host on the Schick and Nick radio show Friday morning and we had the pleasure of interviewing sophomore Michael Pritchard, who’s hit safely in 25 straight games. Here’s a link to the audio. Good stuff.
>> Nebraska’s 8-1 loss to Creighton Tuesday might have been the Huskers’ worst on-field performance of the season. But Erstad said he didn’t do things any differently in practice this week. Fundamentals were stressed. They ran through a few game scenarios, too. “Short and sweet, yet intense,” Erstad said.
>> You might remember Josh Scheffert hit three home runs and had 10 RBI in a three-game series at Ohio State. Scorching hot! Well, he’s .228 at the plate since, and just three for his last 20. Is he slumping? Said Scheffert: “It’s just a little sporadic. Sometimes my eyes get a little big. I want to hit a bomb, but I’ve just got to relax.”
>> Junior right-hander TJ Oakes will take the mound for the Gophers Friday. Watch out for this guy. He’s struck out 47 batters in Big Ten play and walked just five. His slider is the out-pitch. He reportedly throws in the upper-80s (may even crack 90 mph). It’s quite possible that Oakes, from a talent standpoint, is the best pitcher in the league.
>> Minnesota’s fallen on some hard luck lately. Of its last five league losses, four have come in extra innings. All of those were by one run. … But that’s the Gophers’ game. They’ve hit just 10 home runs as a team all year. They’re in constant pitching duels.
>> The Gophers had a 15-game home winning streak snapped by Iowa on April 29. They’re just 2-6 in true road games this year.