The general consensus after the NCAA Baseball Tournament selection show was that Nebraska was sent to the worst regional possible. The Huskers would be paired up with an Oregon State team that has lost just one game all season at home, and finished the regular season with a ridiculous 49-4 record.
The question is how does Nebraska make it out of the regional round and advance to a super regional for the first time since 2005?
Step 1 : Win Friday Vs. Yale
This is a key step to put the Huskers in the winners bracket. Lose this game, and then you most likely have to face Holy Cross, Yale, and then beat Oregon State twice. Can you do that? Yes, but it makes things much tougher than they need to be.
The Huskers get to see right handed pitching, and a team who has not beaten a top 50 RPI opponent since 2014. One has to like the Huskers chances of winning this game, and then getting a bit of time to rest before watching the Oregon State/Holy Cross matchup.
Step 2 : Shock The World
The entire state of Nebraska will root the hardest they can for Holy Cross, but I don’t believe that will help. With Jake Thompson on the hill, there is almost no path to victory for the Crusaders.
Nebraska will most likely see Luke Heimlich for the second time this season. Heimlich threw seven innings earlier this season in the Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge, en route to a 10-1 Beavers win.
Nebraska should throw Derek Burkamper in this winners bracket contest. Burkamper, who took a tough luck loss against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament, has been pitching well down the stretch and could give the Beavers trouble.
Here is the facts: Oregon State has a very average offense. They have hit just 23 home runs on the season, and rely on walks and timely hitting to provide their offense. The Beavers have 253 walks this season against just 316 strikeouts. Oregon State only ranks 130th in runs per game at 5.8 per game, which is plenty to win most contests.
Here is how Nebraska pulls the upset: Burkamper is sharp early, or is pulled after giving up a single run. If Nebraska needs to bridge the gap to get to Chad Luensmann, they maybe go with Matt Waldron, or Luis Alvarado. I would put Luensmann as the closer if they had that chance.
Nebraska needs at least two runs against Oregon State to get the chance to pull the upset. A homer from Scott Schreiber or Ben Miller could spark the offense. Maybe an early run would put pressure on Oregon State and could take the crowd out of the game. Nebraska scores in one of the first three innings and then goes to the bullpen strategy mentioned above to pull off a shocking upset.
Step 3: Shock The World....Again
Nebraska will most likely in this scenario have to defeat Oregon State again. Having already used both Jake Hohensee and Derek Burkamper, the Huskers would turn to Jake Meyers. Meyers is likely to play this weekend after being unable to pitch in the Big Ten Tournament. What is still to be determined is how much Meyers can actually pitch.
If Meyers is able to give the Huskers a chance, that is all that could be asked for. A rested bullpen could be able to get the Huskers much needed outs. With a game against the winner of Holy Cross and Yale, the Oregon State bullpen could be thinned slightly.
The problem with this is that the Oregon State bullpen is like facing the bullpen version of the ‘37 Yankees. Oregon State goes deep with Jake Mulholand, Drew Rasmussen, Max Engelbrekt, Brandon Eisert, and Jordan Britton. Each one of those relievers has an ERA under 2.5, with Engelbrekt and Rasmussen below a 1.00.
Again, this will most likely be a low scoring game with the same gameplan as above being needed. An early lead for the Huskers would be key. Working the pitchers which Oregon State runs out, much like they did to Maryland’s Tyler Blohm. Blohm had to throw a lot of pitches, and lasted just 4.1 innings, even in a Maryland win. If the Huskers could force the bullpen to be active for Oregon State and be efficient with runners, a 2-1 victory could send them to possible the Lincoln Super Regional.