Baseball Preview and Game One Open Thread: Nebraska

Corey Knebel should see some action against old rival Nebraska - Tim Irby

A Q&A with the baseball writers over at Corn Nation to get Longhorn fans ready for the renewal of a former Big 12 rivalry at the Disch.

We joined Jon and James from Corn Nation for a little friendly banter ahead of this weekend's Texas-Nebraska series in Austin. All three games are on the LHN, and other details are available in the Texas Sports preview. Head on over to Corn Nation to check out our answers to their questions. Their responses to us are below.

We understand the Big Ten move was largely motivated by football and a general distaste for...well...us, but we felt and feel like one of the collateral effects would be a downgrading of your vaunted baseball program--i.e., a move from a middling conference to a poor one. Do you think that has been the case? Was the Big Ten move good or bad for your baseball program?

Jon: To say that the move to the Big Ten was “bad” for our baseball team is to completely understate the situation. Most of us baseball fans realized that it would hurt, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for how little the rest of the B1G cares about baseball. There were many weekends last season in which Nebraska’s attendance outdid the rest of the Big Ten combined.

Now, is that fair to the rest of the Big Ten? No, given that it kind of sucks sitting outside watching baseball most of the time in March, and most of these schools are only going to play 15-18 home games, so you can’t fault them entirely, that’s just the way baseball is.

There are improvements in B1G baseball. Purdue will have new facilities this season as will Minnesota, and Michigan actually fired their coach due to performance. Penn State has one of the nicer facilities in the nation.

Still, as a Husker baseball fan it sucks that your conference isn’t anywhere in the national conversation any more.

Nebraska is 0-4. How did this happen? And do you think it will be corrected?

James: That’s a question with a lot of answers. First, Nebraska didn’t pitch or hit well last weekend. Hitting has always been slow for Nebraska early in the season as a Northern school, and Nebraska was missing one of its best hitters and its ace to injury. Combine that with a road-trip to play some solid California teams (including two games against Cal State Fullerton) and it was a tough weekend.

Second, Nebraska was deteriorating under former head coach Mike Anderson even in the Big XII and falling way behind the other schools. Darin Erstad has done some positive things so far, recruiting well and putting together a solid staff. While Nebraska’s record will be deceiving thanks to the strength of the schedule, I expect them to do well in Big Ten play.

What's the path for Nebraska baseball's return to being a great program?

Jon: First - be a better baseball team. As James points out, Husker baseball had deteriorated pretty badly the last couple seasons in the Big XII, so first we have to climb back up that hill.

Second - Schedule tough teams, then beat them. The first part of that solution is in progress, as Erstad has made a point of trying to build the toughest schedule possible. The second part, see above.

Third - Get some better baseball schools to join the Big Ten. Maybe Texas should consider it, but then y’all have to give up that Longhorn Network thing and we all know that isn’t happening, you bunch of money grubbing bastards!

Virginia would be a good addition, as would maybe North Carolina, Georgia Tech, or Florida State. But hey, we got Maryland and Rutgers coming in! WOohoo!O!O!!!!! (Michigan hired Maryland’s Erik Bakich, who had coached the Terps to only their third 30-game winning season in school history, and fourth winning season since 1991. Rutgers baseball has been better, but let’s face it, maybe Nebraska should considering tossing baseball and starting a lacrosse team.)

One of our favorite Texas baseball memories is actually a Texas loss: the 2005 4-3 Friday night game in Lincoln that went 16 innings. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible and it was on national TV. What's your favorite Texas-Nebraska baseball memory? And do you hope we start playing this series every year? We do. (OK, fine, we'll say it. We miss you. Whew. That feels so good to get that off our chests.)

James: That’s actually my favorite memory of the series too. I remember being at Haymarket for the game and hanging over the edge of the outfield fence for the last 5 innings. Absolutely electric. I also remember a game at Haymarket with a streaker who bravely scaled a chain link fence and straddled it briefly before being apprehended in the parking lot.

Finally, the game where Augie Garrido was stalling while trailing in the rain, and then trying to rapidly get to six innings once he had the lead, was a great gamesmanship moment.

I’d love to play Texas every year, though I’d prefer to do it when we’re a bit more competitive again. We seemed to be the one team in Big XII baseball that sort of had the Longhorns’ number over the years.

Jon: I was at that 2005 series as well, with my 12-year old son. It was a great series, the Husker fans were razzing the Texas players with all they had. 2005 was the streaker series, I remember we were up in the good seats and no one noticed the guy until he was halfway across the field. It was hilarious. After the game Texas didn’t shake hands, but walked around doing that “Hook ‘em Horns” thing, and since you spend all your time as a father talking to your kid involved in sports about sportsmanship, I pointed out that behavior as to why we hate Texas so much. It’s stuck with him since (the hating Texas part, maybe not so much the sportsmanship. Ha!)

Play you guys every year? HELL YES!

Streaker video is here, [and it is most decidedly NSFW].

Who are the Nebraska bats we should be on the lookout for this weekend?

James: It doesn’t sound like Michael Pritchard will be playing. Otherwise we only had about three guys who played and hit really well last weekend. Chad Christensen is the slugger, our shortstop last year, and your three hole guy and outfielder this season. Pat Kelly is our second baseman and also hits the ball well and has started hot this season. Finally our juco transfer catcher, Tanner Lubach, was the nicest surprise of the weekend for us.

What would you consider to be a successful showing in Austin?

James: Based on last weekend and the players who are out, I’d be happy if we won our first game this weekend. I’d be ecstatic if we stole the series.

Jon: About the same as James. Oh screw that. I want a series win. You realize that Nebraska had a winning record in the series until the last year in the Big XII? I want that record back.

What kind of showing do you expect?

Jon: My fear would be that we go 0-3 and end up 0-7 to start the season. I’d fear that it would kill a lot of fan interest before it gets started even though Erstad has made it clear we’re going to beat ourselves up with a nasty non-conference schedule.

I expect us to win a game.

Thanks, guys. Good luck this weekend, and hook 'em.

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