It's pretty simple. Nebraska needs to win their series against Minnesota this weekend if they want to maintain their chances of postseason play.
Nebraska is currently in seventh place in the Big Ten in baseball. Only the top six teams make the Big Ten Tournament.
If that seems melodramatic, it's not. This is a team that hasn't made a postseason tournament in three years. They're also basically the same team that got Mike Anderson fired. If they want to stop people like me saying things like that, then it's time to suck it up and win a home series against a good team.
Below are this week's Big Ten match ups, along with a projection of wins and losses:
Illinois @ Penn State 1-2
Indiana @ Northwestern 1-2
Iowa @ Michigan State 1-2
Michigan @ Purdue 0-3
Minnesota @ Nebraska ???
Seattle @ Ohio State Non-Conference Game
If this were to happen, after the weekend, the standings will look like this:
Michigan State 12-9
Minnesota (Currently 10-8)
Penn State 12-9
Ohio State 11-10
Nebraska (Currently 9-9)
I have my doubts about a sweep by either Minnesota or Nebraska. Minnesota's pitching is pretty good, but lacks the depth for them to shutdown opponents in a three-game series. Nebraska's pitching isn't doing so well (being kind), but the offense is doing a lot better than Minnesota's.
Perhaps the biggest difference is Minnesota's bad road record, which currently stands at 2-6 (1-2 at a neutral site and 1-5 in conference).
A 2-1 series win by Nebraska would put them at 11-10, tied with Ohio State and Minnesota for sixth with a series left at Michigan. A 1-2 series loss would put them in sole possession of seventh, hoping that Ohio State loses on the road next week at Indiana. Given that the Huskers have only won one road series this season (Ohio State), the series against the Wolverines isn't a gimme.
It'd be nice if there weren't so much drama involved, but that's where we are. That series loss to Northwestern looms large right now.
Sunday is Nebraska's Senior Day, given that this is the last home series of the season. Catcher Cory Burleson, outfielder Kale Kiser, pitcher Dexter Spitsnogle, and catcher Sam Stucky will play their last game at Haymarket Park.
Given that they've never gotten to a postseason tournament, a series win would be a great sendoff.
Projected Starting Pitchers:
Friday - Kyle Kubat, Fr., LHP (3-0) vs. TJ Oakes, Jr., RHP (7-2)
Saturday - TBA RHP vs. DJ Snelten, So., LHP (4-3)
Sunday - TBA RHP vs. Austin Lubinsky, Sr., RHP (3-3)
If there's a clear-cut indication as to how Nebraska's season has gone, it's that we're this far into the season and head coach Darin Erstad hasn't named starting pitchers for two of the three games this weekend.
Friday's game will feature a potent Husker offense against the Big Ten's best pitcher, TJ Oakes, who enters the weekend with a 1.70 ERA, a record of 7-2 and 74 strikeouts against only 13 walks. Saturday's starter, Golden Gopher pitcher DJ Snelten, stands at sixth in conference with a 2.48 ERA, a 4-3 record, 50 strikeouts and 28 walks.
Minnesota has had problems on offense. They've worked their way up to seventh with a team batting average of .264. They have five players over .300, and are lead by Dan Olinger and Matt Halloran.
Friday's game at 6:35 pm will be shown on NET across the state of Nebraska and streamed on the Big Ten's Digital Network (Subscription required). The game will be broadcast on the Husker Sports Network (don't forget your handy Huskers iPhone app).
Friday: 6:35 pm
Saturday 2:00 pm
Sunday: 1:05 pm