Nebraska gets the 2017 NCAA Baseball season started with a four game weekend series against the University of California-Riverside. The Huskers and Highlanders have agreed to alter their weekend schedule with both teams playing a doubleheader on Friday and single games on both Saturday and Sunday due to weather concerns.
SCHEDULE CHANGE THIS WEEKEND IN TEMPE— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) February 15, 2017
FRI - DH @ 2 PM (CT)
SAT - 1 GM @ 1 PM (CT)
SUN - 1 GM @ 2 PM (CT)https://t.co/XeTRCkrOkY
The Huskers will look to start above .500 in the first weekend of play for the first time in the Darin Erstad era. Nebraska won their first game last season against The College of Charleston, but faltered and lost the final two games.
During his press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Erstad announced that Matt Waldron, Paul Tillotson, Ben Miller, and Jake Meyers will be his starting four pitchers.
Waldron, Tillotson, and Meyers may each throw between 70-90 pitches as it is the first weekend of the season. The Huskers expect Saturdays contest to be a staff game, as they look to get Miller some work in a starting roll.
The Highlanders have not announced a starting rotation. Expect to see Hazahel Quijada, Angel Landazuri, and Richard Delgado as a trio of starters at some point this weekend.
Landazuri, a Senior, has made big strides in simplifying his game and attacking hitters, while Hazahel was named a top Major League Baseball prospect in the Big West draft class of 2018 by Baseball America.
In the bullpen, the Highlanders are deep with a trio or pitchers returning who notched 20 appearances last season. Jared Morton, Alex Fagalde, and Ryan Lillie combined for 83 appearances last season.. The trio limited opposing batters to 19 extra base hits in 105 innings combined in 2016. Overall, teams hit just .264 off of the Riverside pitching staff.
The Huskers will lineup with Meyers leading off, followed by Scott Schreiber, Ben Miller, and Jesse Wilkening batting cleanup. Asked if he had to name a starting lineup, Erstad said that Alex Raburn would play shortstop with Angelo Altavilla at third. Cole Klemke, Luis Alvarado, and Jake Schleppenbach could round out the lineup for the Huskers.
Of note for the Husker offense, the Highlanders excel at not allowing extra base hits, allowing 104 last season including only 16 home runs. The Huskers, for comparison, had 156 extra base hits and Schreiber alone had 16 homers.
On the flip side for the Highlanders, hitters to watch are Mark Contreras, Yeager Taylor, and Colby Schultz. Contreras got on base at a .409 clip while playing outstanding defense last season. Taylor, who played as a Freshman had 11 of his 23 hits go for extra bases and Schultz provided solid defense up the middle while being third on the team in total hits.