The ‘ting' of the aluminum bat, the sound of college baseball season, is almost upon us as the Huskers are in Fresno to take on the 2008 CWS champion, the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are picked to win the Western Athletic Conference this season, so Nebraska has their work cut out for them. The Bulldogs return all three of their weekend starting pitchers, as well as their mid-week pitchers. Suffice it to say the Huskers have their work cut out for them.
If it's the start of baseball season in Nebraska, it must be time to start bitching about Mike Anderson. Some are still pining away after Dave Van Horn, and some are convinced that Rob Childress should have been the guy that stayed. I've come to the conclusion that fans like this don't really follow college baseball much, but are just generally bitchy people who show up and act as if they're following the sport when they really just want to bitch about something.
Is Mike Anderson on the hot seat? Only so far as it gives people something to talk about. I don't expect the season that Nebraska had last year - this team enters the season with far more pitching experience and should have enough offense so that they'd at least finish in the middle of the Big 12, if not better.
Note that only one Big 12 team starts the season ranked (Baseball America). Last season, five Big 12 teams were ranked at the start of the season. That ought to tell you that the conference lost a lot of experience (pitching, mostly), that it's wide open, and that BA hates Kansas.
2010 Projected Line Up (to be considered a wild guess)
1B - Tyler Farst
2B - Kale Kiser
SS - Kyle Bubak
3B - Cody Asche
C - Cody Burleson
CF - DJ Belfonte
RF - Adam Bailey
LF - Khiry Cooper/Boomer Collins
Out for Season
RHP Kash Kalhowski - shoulder surgery
Freshman LHP - Zach Hirsch - elbow surgery
Take yourself back to the start of the 2009 season. The Huskers had lost pitchers Johnny Dorn, Thad Weber, Dan Jennings, Aaron Pribanic, and Zack Herr from 2008. Because of those losses, the Huskers entered 2009 with a total of eight starts, with Erik Bird counting for seven. Husker pitching struggled mightily throughout the 2009 season and the team never really settled into a rotation. Mike Nesseth was pushed into a starting role for part of the season when he should have remained a closer (Nesseth ended the season as the only winning pitcher), and everyone but Nesseth struggled with throwing strikes.
The Huskers enter 2010 with a great deal more starting experience than they've started with the past two seasons, with five pitchers totaling 44 starts. Sean Yost will get the start tonight against Fresno State, while Michael Mariot will start Saturday.
2009 Pitching Statistics For Returning Players:
Much has been made about Mike Anderson's recruiting class this season, ranked 13th by Collegiate Baseball, the highest ever ranking for a Nebraska recruiting class since Collegiate Baseball started tabulating rankings. The class includes three freshmen pitchers who were drafted, but opted to head to college baseball before the majors. Kurt Giller, hails from Manhattan, Kansas, and was drafted in the 21st round by Toronto. His brother Matt plays for Kansas State. Ryan Handers comes in from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after being drafted in the 39th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tom Lemke, from Phoenix, Arizona, was drafted in the 10th round by the Texas Rangers. Lemke comes into the Husker program as the highest drafted pitching prospect in the past 20 years. Lemke could potentially move into the weekend rotation early.
We may see one of the young guys (Lemke?) start a game at Fresno State, and perhaps all three pitch as it will give pitching coach Eric Newman to see them in action before the start of Big 12 play against Texas.
The Huskers picked up three JUCO pitchers as well this season, , Ryan Hughes, and Khris Tate.
All Big 12 First baseman Tyler Farst returns after leading the team with a .333 batting average. Adam Bailey returns after a .325 2009, while hitting 12 homers and 50 RBIs.... you know what, you can read the 2009 statistics as well as the next guy, so I've posted them below. Last season the Huskers couldn't generate offense to save their lives, and wouldn't have known what a "timely hit" was if it bit them on the ass. They were undisciplined and whatever batting rules were in place apparently were ignored.
Adam Bailey, Tyler Farst, and guys like Boomer Collins can provide some offense, but this team is going to have to have more discipline to be successful. Khiry Cooper has a year of Big 12 play under his belt now, let's see what he can do with it.
2009 Offensive Statistics
I've stated a few times that I won't be able to sustain the same level of baseball coverage I've provided over the past few years, but rather than losing visitors, I would hope that would give someone else who's a Husker baseball fan the opportunity to step up and start covering the team for CN. If you're interested, please let me know.