It's baseball season for the Nebraska cornhuskers, as they start their season this upcoming weekend. We take a look at who the expected contributors are for the Huskers. The Huskers return two of their weekend starters, and will look to make it back to Omaha for the first time since 2006. Here is a breakdown of what to expect out of each group of pitchers.
Senior Chance Sinclair is the ace of the pitching staff after going 9-1 last season. Sinclair will once again have the task of going up against the toughest opposing pitchers. Last season Sinclair used a high 80’s fastball along with his curveball and change-up to fool opposing hitters last year. Sinclair was not a strikeout pitcher, instead working to contact. Sinclair will look to increase his strikeouts while keeping his walk total in line with last years.
Senior Kyle Kubat is the heart and soul of the Nebraska pitching staff. Kubat was injured two years ago, and last year had a difficult time of finding the strikezone during the first part of the season. Once Kubat got warmed up towards the last part of the year, he was dominant. Kubat shut down Michigan in the BIG tournament in Omaha with his fastball and change-up combination. Kubat like Sinclair sits in the high 80’s with has fastball, but has a change-up that is above average. With Kubat healthy and throwing strikes at the beginning of the season for the first time in three years, expect big things from Kubat.
Sophomore Max Knutson was little used during the regular season only pitching 6 innings. However, after the end of the regular season, Knutson went to summer ball where he was selected as an all-star by the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Knutson was in the low 90’s with his fastball this summer, while his secondary offerings are a work in progress, they continue to improve. While Knutson may be the favorite to be a weekend starter, there are two other options.
Sophomore Jake Hohensee went 0-3 last season, as he was used mostly in relief and as a spot starter during the midweek period. Hohensee may have the best fastball of the possible candidates for the starting job, going up to 94 at times. Hohensee will need to improve his secondary offerings to fool more advanced hitters. Hohensee may be better used out of the bullpen during the weekend, before transitioning to a midweek starter spot. Hohensee could use experience, and then move into the rotation next year once Sinclair and Kubat graduate.
Junior Austin Christensen also started three games last season, going 3-0. Christensen also plays in the field, and started 26 games at first base last year, but with the addition of Scott Schreiber, Christensen may find more time pitching than at first base. Christensen is a crafty lefty with a middle 80’s fastball and both a change-up and a curveball. Christensen’s secondary offerings are merely average to below average, and he struggled against top level competition last season. Christensen also is two years removed from Tommy John Surgery. Look for Christensen to be a middle of the week starter, and possible pinch hitter.
Senior Josh Roeder is the leader of the bullpen with his unforgettable facial hair, and his hard nose attitude. Roeder has bumped up his fastball velocity to the low 90’s. Roeder combines this explosive pitch with good off speed offerings. Roeder saved 12 games last year, and sits second in the school record books, needing 14 saves to pass Brett Jensen. Roeder will have a solid opportunity to post huge numbers this year.
Junior Colton Howell, may have the best fastball on the entire staff. Howell has a fastball that can reach up to 96, as he showed in fall ball this past year. Howell throws the pitch downhill. Howell was knocked around early last season, before starting to come on towards the end of the year. Howell will be expected to contribute early and often this year after the loss of key set up man Zach Hirsch.
Junior Jeff Chestnut was part of a formidable bullpen last year finish the season with a 3.24 earned run average. Chestnut will sit in the low 90’s with his fastball this year, but can often be wild. Chestnut will need to have control of not only his fastball but also his off speed pitches if he wants to continue in his setup roll. If Chestnut is wild, he could be passed up by a handful of freshmen pitchers that Darin Erstad signed.
Sophomore Derek Burkamper was drafted out of high school but chose to sign with Nebraska. After not finding the field often due to disciplinary issues, Burkamper will look to contribute out of the bullpen with what made him a MLB draft pick. Burkamper has a low 90’s fastball, but has a hard biting curveball that could be a lethal pitch. Add in an above changeup, Burkamper could be a major weapon out of the bullpen. The key will be Burkamper’s work ethic.
Freshmen to Watch:
Garett King is from California where he pitched against some high level competition. King will add velocity as his body continues to fill out. He has a plus frame, and plus command. Attacks right handed hitters well, and has advanced secondary offerings. King will likely see work out of the bullpen with the possibility to maybe have the opportunity for a midweek start.
Byron Hood was the number one pitcher in Nebraska according to Perfect Game, and was ranked nationally as the 128th right handed pitcher in the recruiting cycle. Hood has a middle 80’s fastball, which will gain a few ticks as he matures. Hood also has a plus curveball which is considered to be his out pitch. He throws an average change up. Hood could have the tools to eventually become a starter, but will likely see mop up work out of the bullpen at first.
Reece Eddins is a projectable project out of Missouri. Eddins needs to add strength, as his fastball sits in only the low to mid 80’s. Eddins however does have some natural cut action with his fastball. Eddins secondary offerings include a slurve, and a changeup that sinks. Eddins will need some time to mature, but once he does, he could be a bullpen weapon.