After being rained out in Arizona last weekend, Nebraska returns to the desert to play 8th ranked Oregon State and Utah in the Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge at Surprise Stadium. Utah, the reigning Pac-12 champion and Oregon State, the preseason Pac-12 favorite both posted winning records in the first weekend of the year.
Nebraska will play single games against Oregon State on Thursday and Saturday, while taking on the Utes on Friday and Sunday. Ohio State will also participate in the Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge, taking on the opposite team as Nebraska during each of the four days.
The Huskers have altered the rotation this weekend. Matt Waldron and Jake Meyers will start against the Beavers, while Derek Burkamper returns to the rotation on Saturday. On Sunday, Jake Hohensee is scheduled to get his first start as a Husker.
As of press time, the Beavers have not listed a starter for any of their weekend games. Luke Heimlich did start the opener for the Beavers and punched out 11 against an Indiana team expected to compete for a top spot in the Big Ten. The Beavers are very deep on the mound, so far only allowing a total of 3 earned runs on the season.
Utah has named Preseason All-American Jayson Rose and Josh Lapiana as their two starters against the Huskers. Rose was roughed up by the University of California-Bakersfield to the tune of four runs in four plus innings. Lapiana held Bakersfield to a single run over five solid innings.
On the offensive side, the Beavers may have the best hitter in the Pac-12. Nick Madrigal hit .400 over opening weekend, and slugged a home run. A top 2018 middle infield MLB prospect, the Huskers will need to be careful with Madrigal.
The Beavers are a deep lineup besides Madrigal. Trevor Larnach has shown great discipline, walking three times, batting .400 and not striking out so far this season. Cadyn Grenier has a pair of triples and KJ Harrison has the best raw power in the Pac-12 according to Baseball America.
Utah had three players post batting averages over .500 on opening weekend. Dallas Carroll, a returning All Pac-12 first teamer hit .667 with three doubles. Chandler Anderson and Wade Gulden talied seven runs scored together over the three game set. As a team, the Utes are batting .347, while getting on base at a .434 clip.
Keys for the Huskers this weekend will be to limit baserunners as a whole over the weekend.
Waldron did a good job of that in his start last Friday, as an error cost him what should have been a Husker win. With Burkamper and Hohensee starting this weekend, the bullpen could see a lot of work.
This could be a tough weekend for the Husker hitters, who combined to hit .197 over the two game series last weekend. Scott Schreiber had two huge hits last weekend but also had five strikeouts. Alex Raburn, Jake Schleppenbach, and Ben Miller combined for one hit in 24 plate appearances. The Huskers will need to do a better job of working counts, and laying off bad pitches to win in the Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge.