#42 Nebraska Baseball 2014 Preview

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Overall Rank: #42
Conference Rank: #2 Big Ten
#43 Nebraska Baseball 2014 Preview
Nebraska Team Page


In his third season at the helm of his alma mater, Darin Erstad is looking to guide Nebraska to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2008.  The Huskers fell one game short of reaching them last season, as Indiana beat them 4-3 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.  Plagued by a 0-7 start, the Huskers finished 29-30, but were 15-9 in Big Ten play.  They bring in one of the top recruiting classes in the entire country, which could push them over the hump.

2013: 29-30, 15-9
2013 Postseason: None
Coach: Darin Erstad

Field Players:
All-Big Ten team members Michael Pritchard and Pat Kelly are back for the Huskers this season.  Pritchard, an outfielder, had injuries limit him to only 49 games last season, but he did hit .333, striking out only 18 times in 198 at bats.  Kelly was a first team All-Big Ten member at second base after hitting .331 with 33 RBI’s.  Austin Darby returns to the outfield after hitting .292 with a pair of home runs and 33 RBI’s last year.  Other starters returning are third baseman Blake Headley, catcher Tanner Lubach, and shortstop Wes Edrington, who split time at the position as a freshman last year.  Headley had a .979 fielding percentage, committing only three errors a year ago, while Lubach contributed 27 RBI’s.  Edrington, originally a part of the 2013 recruiting class, started 22 games last season after graduating high school a semester early.  The Huskers recruiting class brings in a pair of outfielders that will be looking to see time early.  Ryan Boldt is the crown jewel of the class.  Boldt, a member of the U-18 USA Baseball Team in 2012 and the MVP of the Perfect Game All-American Game, was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2013 MLB Draft, but decided to attend Nebraska instead.  Junior college transfer Christian Cox also looks to get playing time after playing two seasons at Hutchinson Community College.  Backup catcher Tyler Fish, infielder Jake Placzek, and outfielder Ty Kildow are also back.  Kildow is a threat on the base path’s, going 6-for-8 on stolen base attempts in limited playing time last year.

Christian DeLeon is back for his senior season and will lead the Huskers pitching rotation.  In his first year in the program last season, DeLeon was 7-4 with a 3.21 ERA as the Huskers Friday night starter.  He started 14 games, the only Husker player to start more than eight.  Kyle Kubat will join DeLeon in the starting rotation.  After missing the first 33 games due to shoulder soreness, Kubat finished 5-0 with a 1.81 ERA in eight starts.  Opponents hit only .208 against him.  Aaron Bummer is likely the third candidate to complete the weekend rotation.  He was 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA after earning a starting spot halfway through the season.  A fourth candidate to start is freshman Derek Burkamper.  A 20th round draft pick by the Red Sox in the 2013 MLB Draft, Burkamper opted to attend Nebraska instead of signing.  He was 11-2 with a 0.99 ERA as a senior last year.  Josh Roeder will anchor the bullpen.  He had a 1.74 ERA and six saves last year while holding batters to a .209 batting average.  Luke Bublitz, Zach Hirsch, Jeff Chestnut, Caleb Hawkins, and Tyler King all return to the bullpen.  All five appeared in at least 11 games last year and Bublitz had a 4-1 record in 24 appearances.  

Who to Watch:
Watch out for Austin Christensen this season.  The sophomore is in his third season with the program but hasn’t played due to injuries.  He missed 2012 with an elbow injury and 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.  A first baseman and pitcher, Christensen was the 2011 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year.  As a senior, he batted .555 with 19 home runs, both tops in the state, to go along with 52 RBI’s.  On the mound, he won 28 games in his high school career, striking out 82 batters his senior year.  With the first base position open, expect Christensen to win that job and help replace the production of his brother, Chad, who was drafted by the Minnesota Twins after last season.  

Final Projection:
The Huskers had a down year last season after going 35-23 in Erstad’s first season.  Nebraska was perennial power in the early part of the 2000’s, advancing to the College World Series three times in five seasons from 2001-05.  After a few down seasons, Nebraska hired Erstad to lead the Huskers into uncharted territory as they transitioned to the Big Ten.  Erstad looks set to have the Huskers competing once again in his third season in Lincoln.  If the highly rated recruits can add some production to go along with the returning starters, expect Nebraska to be in an NCAA Regional at the end of the year.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Pat Kelly, IF, 257
Hits: Pat Kelly, IF, 85
Home Runs: Pat Kelly, IF, 2; Austin Darby, OF, 2; Tanner Lubach, C, 2
RBIs: Pat Kelly, IF, 33; Austin Darby, OF, 33
Runs: Michael Pritchard, OF, 34
Stolen Bases: Austin Darby, OF, 6; Ty Kildow, OF, 6

Wins: Christian DeLeon, P, 7
Innings Pitched: Christian DeLeon, P, 92.2
Strikeouts: Christian DeLeon, P, 46
Saves: Josh Roeder, P, 6


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