Husker baseball will be playing at Minneapolis' Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome this weekend in yet another trip to the Gophers-sponsored Dairy Queen Classic. Nebraska will be facing West Virginia, New Mexico State, and Minnesota.
This is the 28th year for the Classic tournament (which for a while was called the Hormel Classic if memory serves me). It is the fifth appearance for the Huskers, second for West Virginia, and the first for New Mexico State.
Projected Starting Pitchers:
Friday, March 2 - 12:15 p.m. (CT)
So. Zach Hirsch (LHP) vs. West Virginia - So. Marshall Thompson (LHP)
Saturday, March 3 - 12:05 p.m. (CT)
So. Jon Keller (RHP) vs. New Mexico State - Jr. Ryan Beck (LHP)
Sunday, March 4 - 3:05 p.m. (CT)
Jr. Tom Lemke (RHP) vs. Minnesota - Sr. Austin Lubinsky (RHP)
West Virginia enters the weekend with a 3-4 record, with their three wins coming against Big Ten teams Northwestern, Penn State, and Iowa (not exactly murder's row) and a loss against Michigan in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. Their last three games were losses coming against Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, and George Mason last weekend.
The Mountaineers have only two players hitting over .300 so far, and have scored only 22 runs. The team batting average is .184 (worse than Minnesota!), dead last in the Big East. They've totaled 41 hits, nine doubles and only one home run. That's the good news.
The bad news - the Huskers will face sophomore LHP Marshall Thompson, the most experienced pitcher on the Mountaineers staff. Thompson has made only two appearances this season, having a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings pitched, while giving up five runs (four earned). Hmmmm... okay, that's not as bad a news as I thought.
New Mexico State enters the tournament with a 7-3 record, including a 3-1 record over Wake Forest, two losses to perennial powerhouse Rice, and a four game sweep of Sacred Heart in which they outscored the Pioneers 71-22.
While you might be tempted to write off that performance against Sacred Heart, it might interest you to know that the Aggies lead the nation last season in team hitting at .337, with twelve players over .300, and they return their top five hitters again this season.
The Aggies are hitting .324 already this season, already with 106 runs, 104 hits, 96 RBIs, doubles and 11 home runs. Cody Edwards became the second player in Aggie history to hit for the cycle against Sacred Heart, his cycle including three-run triple and a grand slam home run. OUCH!
The Aggies will present a pretty good challenge to the Husker pitchers on Saturday, as if that isn't the obvious understatement of the weekend.
Junior LHP Ryan Beck has a 2-0 record entering the weekend with three appearances. He's pitched 15 innings, given up 15 hits, three runs and has a 1.80 ERA. He is the Aggies top pitcher, and they saved him for us! Wooeee!!!
As nasty as the Aggies are at the plate, Minnesota is just the opposite. The Gophers are only hitting .197 as a team so far this season, worst in the Big Ten. The Gophers enter the weekend with a 3-4 record after splitting a four-game series with Wisconsin-Milwaukee last week. Uh. Yuck.
More on that in a minute.
This is Minnesota, right? Head coach John Anderson, that guy who talked about dumping the NCAA and having cold-weather schools start playing their own schedule and maybe their own tournament? That team?
Before the season started, I wondered what Big Ten coach would replace Texas' Augie Garrido as the coach that Husker fans love to hate. Up steps John Anderson, although Nebraska fans will be sorely disappointed in Anderson as he lacks Garrido's flare for bullshit and drama. I'm guessing the hate affair won't last that long, although, honestly, I don't know if there's anyone else who's a better candidate to take Augie's place.
Bottom line - it should be extra fun to be at Sunday's game if for no other reason than to see how Husker fans greet their new conference opponent and their coach.
Back to baseball.
As I was a sayin', the Gophers are havin' a helluva time hitting the ball. In seven games, the Gophers have plated only 19 runs (the Aggies have scored over 20 twice already this season). Junior catcher Kurt Schlangen is their top hitter at .563, with nine hits and four runs. Three other players are hitting over .300, but collectively the Gophers have hit only one home run.
The Gophers are currently ranked second in the Big Ten in pitching with a 3.00 ERA. The Huskers will be facing senior RHP Austin Lubinsky (the Gophers' best pitcher TJ Oakes, will be facing the Aggies), who so far this season has a 0-1 record, 4.15 ERA with 8.2 innings pitched in two appearances.
Tickets to the Dairy Queen Classic can be purchased at the door. $8 for adults, $5 for kids. This is a great kids tournament as they hold an on-the-field kids clinic on Saturday.
If you happen to stop by a Dairy Queen in the Minneapolis metro, you should be able to pick up some free ticket vouchers.
The games will not be televised, but will be streamed on the Big Ten's Digital Network at video.btn.com - subscription required. Audio streaming is available at huskers.com and the official Huskers iphone app. Radio will be available on the Husker Sports Network.
What We're Doing at CN
Friday's game against West Virginia will start around noon, while the Husker women's basketball game against Iowa in the Big Ten tourney will start at 1:00 pm.
The women's game thread is scheduled to open at noon, so go ahead and use that for a combination of baseball, basketball, and whatever else you want to talk about, including what you're doing for the weekend.
I hope to get to two of the Husker baseball games this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. If you happen to be at the Metrodome, I'll be the loud guy.