Nebraska ended its fall season with the final game of its Red-White series Thursday. Here are five unanswered questions heading into winter.
1. Who’s the Friday starter? Junior Kyle Kubat was the ace two years ago. Senior Christian DeLeon handled the duties well last spring. But Aaron Bummer, after a strong finish to his sophomore year and a confidence-boosting summer, may end up taking over the No. 1 spot. This kind of problem is a good thing. For the first time in several seasons, the Huskers return a full weekend rotation.
2. Can Nebraska find a permanent first baseman? The Huskers spent the fall trying different guys at first base. Sophomore Austin Christensen and redshirt freshman Matt Jones seem to be the most likely options, but junior Blake Headley, senior Corey Stringer and freshmen Bryce Only, Ben Miller and Matt Leuty have all worked at that position. Even senior Michael Pritchard, a career outfielder, has taken reps there. The spot’s certainly up for grabs.
3. How do the Huskers handle inexperience at shortstop? Junior college transfer Steven Reveles has adjusted well so far, and the coaches have always liked the work ethic of sophomore Jake Placzek. But sophomore Wes Edrington suffered a knee injury that might sideline him for much of the season. Nebraska has had a veteran presence at this position for the past couple of years, but unless the Huskers move guys around, they’ll be relying on someone without much game experience at this level.
4. Are these freshmen legit? Collegiate Baseball ranked Nebraska’s most recent recruiting class 26th nationally. The group features several prospects (including outfielder Ryan Boldt, right-hander Derek Burkamper and lefty Max Knutson) who’ve already caught the attention of MLB scouts. But can they handle the transition and live up to the potential? The Huskers will need a few newcomers to make an early impact.
5. What does it take to develop a winner’s mindset? The Huskers regularly competed with the nation’s best teams last year, but struggled to put them away or make enough plays to win the close ones. They were 8-18 in games decided by two runs or fewer. A lack of bullpen depth contributed to that, but Nebraska too often spoiled opportunities for wins with its mistakes. The next step for this program is playing like you expect to win, from the first pitch to the last.