The Cornhusker baseball team opens up at Hawks Field in Lincoln today with a four-game series against the UC Riverside Highlanders. The weather might corporate this weekend as it's might hit 50 degrees by Friday's game time at 1:35 pm. Compare that to Riverside, California where it will be in the mid-70's and could hit 80 on Sunday. Saturday features a double-header, starting at 12:05 pm while Sunday's game will start at 1:05 pm.
We previewed the Highlanders before the start of the season, the key being that they're in the same situation as Nebraska - trying to find a starting rotation. The Highlanders lost RHP Matt Montgomery to 'Tommy John' surgery right before the season started. Montgomery was projected to be the Highlanders No. 1 starter, placing even heavier pressure on the Highlanders' young pitchers. Per Highlander coach Doug Smith, closer Joe Kelly will not move into a starting role.
Nebraska comes into the series at 1-2, having lost a series against Stanford. UC Riverside comes in at 2-3, having split games in a four-games series against the Washington Huskies and picking up a loss against #29th-sranked Pepperdine.
Johnny Dorn will start on the mound versus the Highlanders' Stephen Penny. Penny picked up his first win of the season last weekend against Washington. In 5.1 innings, he gave up two earned runs, six hits, and struck out eight.
|Friday||Johnny Dorn (1-0, 0.00 ERA)||Stephen Penny (0-0, 3.38 ERA)|
|Saturday-1||Dan Jennings, Jr., LHP (0-0, 0.00 ERA)||Matt Larkins, Fr., RHP (1-0, 4.50 ERA)|
|Saturday-2||Thad Weber, Sr., RHP (0-1, 24.00 ERA)||TBA|
|Sunday||Aaron Pribanic, Jr., RHP (0-0, 3.38 ERA)||TBA|
Twelve different Highlander pitchers have been on the the mound already this season.
Nebraska's DJ Belfonte comes into the series hitting .467 with one run and five RBI's in 15 at-bats. Following him are Cody Neer (.308), Bryce Nimmo (.300), Jake Opitz (.300) and Mitch Abeita (.300).
For the Highlanders, Brett Hambright is the top hitter at .444 with two RBI's in nine at-bats. Following him are Drew Garcia (.421), Aaron Wible (.412), and Joey Gonzales (.353). Last season, Gonzales has been named to the Brooks Wallace Watch list. He is the returning leading hitter, having a .356 average in 2007, with two home runs and 19 RBI's.
More about UC Riverside
The school first opened in 1954. School colors are blue & gold - every school in the University of California System has some combination of blue and gold as their school colors. I did not know that.
The team mascot was chosen as the "Highlanders" after several other suggestions weren't accepted. Some people wanted the mascot to stick with the "Bear" concept so they would be on par with their brethren from UCLA and Cal-Berkeley, but this didn't stick either. "Hylanders" was suggested and the spelling later changed. The full story at UCR's web site is pretty interesting - if you thought "Nebraska Bugeaters" was odd, how 'bout the "UCR Aphids"?
"Highlanders" fit the campus well for several reasons. The Box Springs Mountains, which stand behind the campus, were known as the Highlands. In addition, UCR is the highest elevation campus in the UC System.The name proved to be a solid compromise, allowing the bear proponents to make a contribution.
This is why you see the Bear in the Highlander Mascot. Be sure to welcome their fans to Lincoln and maybe bring an extra coat for them this weekend!