After winning the 2017 Big Ten Regular Season, the Nebraska Baseball team has their sights set on bigger goals for 2018. Last year, the Huskers surged to a Big Ten Championship, but flamed out in the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, going 1-4 combined.
Gone from the 2017 team are Derek Burkamper, Ben Miller, Jake Schleppenbach, and All-American Jake Meyers. Nebraska will also lose closer Chad Luensmann for the season, as he sustained an injury and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month.
Head Coach Darin Erstad will roll out a new rotation for the season with Luis Alvarado movie into the Friday night roll for the Huskers. Behind Alvarado, the Huskers have two open spots, and a boatload of potential starters. Potential starters include Matt Warren, Matt Waldron, Ethan Frazier, Jake McSteen, Robbie Palkert, and Paul Tillotson.
Warren, Waldron, and Tillotson present three of the more interesting options for the Huskers as each has prior starting experience. Tillotson looked to be part of the rotation last year, but was injured in the first month of the season. Waldron was a starter his freshman year, and pitched well at the end of last season. Warren, a transfer from Creighton, is a former All-American who is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Whichever Huskers do not start, Nebraska should have a deep bullpen with many names returning from last season. One addition to the bullpen is Jake Hohensee who moves out of the rotation and back to the bullpen. Erstad will use Hohensee in high leverage situations out of the pen instead of having him be a Friday night starter.
While the Huskers return a fair share of mound experience, they lose the right side of the infield and there starting center fielder from last season.
In the outfield, the Huskers will have Scott Schreiber return for his senior season, along with another campaign from Sophomore standout Mojo Hagge. I would expect Hagge and Schreiber to patrol the corners, with the center field spot up for grab between Jaxon Hallmark, Joe Acker, and Carter Cross.
On the right side, Nebraska needs to replace Miller and Schleppenbach. At second, the Huskers could move Angelo Altavilla over from short and put Brison Cronenbold at short, or they could be looking at a variety of infielders. At first, expect to see a lot of Alvardao, which is where he will be when he does not pitch.
If Altavilla sticks at short, then Nebraska could deploy Cronenbold at third or mix using Cronenbold with Luke Roskam against right handed pitching. Other infielders looking to see time include Alex Henwood, Zac Luckey, Mike Waldron, Ben Klenke, and Jeff Athey.
The Huskers will have Jesse Wilkening returning who saw the majority of the Huskers starts last season from behind the plate. Backing up Wilkening will be Gunner Hellstrom and Kennet Sorenson.
With Altavilla, Schreiber, and Alvarado back, the Huskers should have lofty goals. To achieve those goals, they need a fast start, breaking in new faces. If they can find two solid starting pitchers to go with Alvarado, you have to like the Huskers chances of finding their way back to the top of the Big Ten standings.
Nebraska kicks off the 2018 season with the 2018 Fan Fest tomorrow night. Their first series of the year starts February 16th with two games against Washington State and University of California-Riverside.