Published Wednesday, April 24, 2013 AT 3:41 PM / Updated at 3:52 PM
Baseball: Nebraska-Kansas State midweek preview
Jon Nyatawa Omaha World-Herald

We’re taking a diversionary approach to previewing Wednesday’s Nebraska-Kansas State game, which will likely turn into a bullpen-off between two teams focused on keeping pace in their respective conference races.

Obviously, each squad wants to win. The Huskers hope to sustain momentum (they’ve won five straight and are second in the Big Ten) while the Wildcats want to start building some (they’re in third place in the Big 12 after dropping a tightly contested weekend series at Oklahoma State). A preview of the matchup is here.

But enough with these meaningful plots and backstories!

Junior Michael Pritchard was talking about the art of bunting last week — which would normally be a rather insignificant conversation if the Huskers weren’t so freakin’ good at it lately. Especially Pritchard.

He has eight bunt singles on nine tries, tied with leadoff hitter Rich Sanguinetti for the team lead. NU batters have 27 bunt singles in 40 attempts. Nebraska’s 37 sacrifice bunts are tops in the Big Ten.

Seems so simple: Squaring around, leveling the bat and deadening the baseball in play. But it’s not. Shoot, Nebraska struggled to bunt early in the year (bunted into two double plays in a game at Texas).

Bunting takes some skill, and practice. Even if Pritchard makes it sound effortless. Here’s a quick midweek Q&A with bunt-obsessed Pritchard:

When you get on base via the bunt single, it’s pretty deflating for the defense, isn’t it?

“It works both ways. Sometimes a bunt’s just as good as a home run. … It gives you an edge. It gets the (opposing) team more frantic. I love bunting. When I get a bunt down, I want to beat that ball to first base more than any other time. It’s a thrilling thing for me. … (Third-base) coach (Will) Bolt, he doesn’t even have to tell me. If there’s a guy on first and second with no outs, I don’t have to look (for the sign). I know what I’m doing.”

Why is it harder for some guys to bunt, but easier for you?

“I think a lot of guys don’t practice it enough. That’s the main thing. Take it seriously. When we’re working on our rounds during batting practice, if you don’t get your hit-and-runs down, you’re going to get yelled at. If you don’t get your bunts down, you’re going to get yelled it. It’s just a baseball play. In college baseball it’s started to come back more now. … But our team, we don’t use (the bunt) to play small ball. We use it to get base hits out of it.”

Is there a certain spot on the infield grass that you aim for?

“I don’t really know. You get it down the line and see we happens. Myself, Sanguinetti and (Austin) Darby — that’s three lefties right there that get down the line pretty quick. All three of us work on bunting a lot. We’re pretty egotistic about our bunting skills. You get it down and you hope for a hit. If not, you still get the job done.”

So it’s easier for the lefties?

“Ya, it is. You just stick your bat out. That (Arkansas) third baseman wasn’t coming up for anything. … Now that I’m hitting in the three-hole, guys are playing me in front of the grass like they would last year. If you’re even with the bag, I’m going to take a look all the time.

Hoping for a fastball?

“Just bunt strikes.”

About Jon Nyatawa

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008. He and his laptop, cell phone, tape recorder, pen and notebook all live in Lincoln. Follow him on Twitter: @JonNyatawa. Email him here: jon.nyatawa@owh.com. He welcomes feedback.