Nebraska’s mistake-filled opening weekend resulted in an 0-4 record, presumably draining a good amount of the enthusiasm from Husker fans who follow this club.
Especially considering that the schedule only gets tougher — Texas (picked third in the Big 12) and No. 21 New Mexico (a CWS darkhorse and the favorite to win the Mountain West) are up next. Yikes!
But let’s think positive, shall we. At least on this windy and chilly, and relatively depressing Monday — another hopeless return to a monotonous work week that will likely get even more miserable when Mother Nature drops a foot (or will it be a yard?) of snow on the Omaha metro area Thursday.
Yes, positive thoughts! Here’s what I’ve got …
In the last three seasons, six different teams have started Big Ten play with a losing record, yet managed to finish among the top three in the conference regular season standings.
>> Minnesota lost seven of nine to begin the 2010 season and was 9-16 at the start of league play. But the Gophers won the Big Ten’s regular season and tournament crowns, making an NCAA Regional. The two teams that finished directly behind Minnesota in the standings that year had early season struggles, too (Northwestern started 6-18 and Iowa, thanks to a nine-game losing streak, was 9-13 when conference action began).
>> Illinois started 3-3 in 2011, but dropped seven of its next eight games. No big deal, though. The Illini went on to tie Michigan State for first place, then win the conference tournament for an NCAA Regional berth.
>> Indiana was 4-11 at one point last year. Penn State started 2-11. Yet, the Hoosiers (second) and Nittany Lions (third) were just off the pace of the champion Boilermakers when the regular season ended last May.
These are the perplexities that have come to define Big Ten baseball.
(Somewhat-random sidenote: Big Ten baseball is unpredictable and parity-filled – what actually should make conference play quite exciting to follow, if there were anyone who cared. But teams who struggle in February and March don’t create much local buzz and don’t have any place on the national stage. And whatever remnant of credibility they have left is wiped away when Roulette-style conference play starts. That’s why veteran league coaches are so radically opposed to the current scheduling structure, which requires most northern teams to start their seasons with four weeks of road games).
The point of this blog was to note that Nebraska’s disappointing start is not a death blow. This league’s recent history proves the Huskers can recover. It’s up to them to avoid a meltdown.
We’ll end Monday’s baseball update with noteworthy nuggets from the weekend, just in case you missed something…
Tanner Lubach’s productive debut: The sophomore catcher, out of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, went 4-for-11 at the plate, including a solo home run Friday and a two-out, RBI-single on Sunday.
Nebraska’s pitching woes: Welp, the Huskers’ team ERA after four games is 8.54. They’re allowing 13.5 hits per nine innings. Not good. … Junior college transfer Christian DeLeon was the bright spot Sunday, allowing one run over 4 2/3 innings in his first start (NU ace Kyle Kubat didn’t pitch at all because of arm soreness).
Opponent watch: How ’bout dem Gophers? Minnesota took one of three from No. 12 UCLA this weekend, which in new RPI lingo basically means the teams split the series (road wins are worth 1.3 wins and road loses are counted as 0.7 losses). Doesn’t matter that the Gophers got outscored 28-1 in their two defeats, right?
Big Ten weekly awards: Indiana first baseman Sam Travis (player) and Ohio State reliever Brad Goldberg (pitcher).