Cambria College Classic
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Date: March 3-5th
Radio: All Nebraska games on Huskers Radio Network, Huskers.com, Huskers App
Hosted by the University of Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, the Cambria College Classic features 3 Big Ten teams (Maryland, Minnesota, and Nebraska) playing against 3 non-conference teams (Hawaii, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt). The Big Ten teams will not play each other and the non-B1G teams will not play each other. For the full schedule, see the tournament’s website here.
Minnesota will use their privilege as host to always play at night, in order to have the best “sky” to look at. If you remember the last time Nebraska played in this stadium, the lighting from the sun with the windows and the brightness of the roof during the daytime proved to be an adventure for most teams’ outfielders.
Nebraska comes into the tournament riding high after firing on nearly every cylinder in their sweep at South Alabama. They are going to need to continue that success, and then some, to compete with some of the best talent in college baseball, including defending champion Ole Miss. So lets take a quick look at who Nebraska will be playing throughout the weekend.
#7 Vanderbilt Commodores (6-3) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3-1)
Date/Time: March 3, @ 11 am CT
Head Coach(s): Will Bolt (4th season, 67-55-1) & Tim Corbin (21st season, 953-541-1)
Probable Pitchers: LHP Emmett Olson (1-1, 4.22 ERA) vs. LHP Carter Holton (1-0, 1.93 ERA)
Vandy is off to a 6-3 start to the 2023 season, with a series win over #17 UCLA, and a win over #9 Oklahoma State. This follows a 39-23 record in their 2022 campaign, which ended in the Corvallis regional with a loss to Oregon State in the regional final. They also met San Diego in that regional, going 1-1 against the Toreros.
The Commodores will most likely throw Pre-Season All-American Carter Holton. He was a Freshman All American last year with a record of 8-4 with an 3.14 ERA and 97 Ks in 80.1 innings. Holton finished in the top 10 in multiple major categories in the best conference in baseball, the SEC. He is fresh off allowing 1 hit in 5.1 innings of shutout baseball vs UCLA.
As you can see, Holton wasnt given a long leash, despite allowing 1 hit, and that’s because Vandy has was is shaping up to be one of the top bullpens in the early goings of this season. Five players have a 3.00 ERA or better, and 3 of their top back end guys, Nick Maldonado, Bryce Cunningham, and freshman David Horn have yet to allow a run in a combined 15.1 innings. The bullpen as whole has 68 Ks in 43+ innings of work. So they can make teams look silly.
The offense, for Vanderbilt standards, is off to a slow start. But that was to be expected, losing 2 first team all SEC hitters in C Dominic Keegan and 1st round pick RF Spencer Jones. That along with going against the teams they have to start the season, in addition to the previously mentioned teams, they’ve also played and lost to #15 ranked TCU.
Leadoff batter Enrique Bradfield Jr. is the top returner in terms of production. He hit .312 last year, with 69 runs scored. He also is the newly crowned all time steals leader in Vandy history, but is only batting .226 thus far in 2023. The breakout hitter to start the season for the Commodores is 2B Jonathan Vastine. He is hitting .394, with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, and 10 RBIs, all leading the team. Expect someone like Calvin Hewett to take off sometime soon for the offense. Hewett hit .329 with 4 HRs last season, playing in about half of the Commodores games, after being one of the top rated outfielders in the Northeast in high school.
This is the first meeting between Vanderbilt and Nebraska
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3-1) at Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (4-3)
Date/Time: March 4, @ 3 pm CT
Head Coach(s): Will Bolt (4th season, 67-55-1) & Rich Hill (2nd season, 1,111-765-4)
Probable Pitchers: RHP Jace Kaminska (1-0, 4.91 ERA) vs. LHP Randy Abshier (0-0, 2.54 ERA)
Well, another preview, another tie to San Diego, as Hawaii’s coach joined their program last year after 23 years at the helm of San Diego. Rich Hill has life figured out, as maybe the only place better to live as a baseball coach than San Diego, would be Honolulu. He wasted no time turning the Warriors around, leading them to their best ever finish in the Big West, 3rd place after going 19-11 in conference, and 28-24 overall. This year Hawaii is 4-3 with a 14-2 loss to, oh hey, San Diego last weekend, and a 13-1 victory over future Husker opponent North Dakota State.
Nebraska should expect to see another LHP in Randy Abshier. Abshier was a career bullpen guy at Arizona while pitching for them for 3 seasons before transferring to Hawaii for his senior season. He pitched in 40 games for a total of 43 innings with 42 Ks and 4.40 ERA. As a starter at Hawaii he has 2.45 ERA over 2 starts, both of which Hawaii won, but Abshier does not have a record, as he has only thrown 7.1 innings. So while he has decent stuff, don’t expect to see much more than 1 time through the order.
Hawaii is trying to figure out its bullpen by playing anyone and everyone so far. All but 3 pitchers have 2 appearances on the young season. This isn’t just a feature of this season though. If you look at last season, you will see 9 different players started a game and 8 different ones saved a game. Connor Harrison and Cameron Hagan have received the most innings out of the pen so far, with varying degrees of success.
After fairly pedestrian offensive numbers last year, Hawaii has a number of hitters off to hot starts. Jared Quandt is hitting a blistering .563 with 3 home runs on the year. He was the leading freshman hitter on the team 2 years ago before an arm injury kept him from playing at all in 2022. Matt Wong also missed the entirety of 2022. He had a torn ACL, but has battled back to be the teams defensive leader in center field while also hitting .360 on the season. Jacob Igawa is leading the team in hits with 11 this year, after leading the Warriors in home runs last year with 7.
Hawaii owns a 15-8 advantage in the series, but Nebraska has won the last 2 meetings, 4-3 in 2015 and 2-1 in 1998. This will be only the 2nd meeting to occur on the mainland, with 2015’s being in Houston.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3-1) at #4 Ole Miss Rebels (7-2)
Date/Time: March 5, @ 1:30 pm CT
Head Coach(s): Will Bolt (4th season, 67-55-1) & Mike Bianco (23rd season, 961-558-1)
Probable Pitchers: LHP Caleb Clark (0-0, 9.82 ERA) vs. LHP Xavier Rivas (2-0, 7.88 ERA)
The defending national champion had a lot of upperclassman to replace. Superstar Tim Elko powered the offense, and 3 draftees comprised their Friday and Saturday starters, and closer. Add to that, their returning ace, Hunter Elliott, and top freshman reliever from last year, Josh Mallitz, are out until mid April and the entire season, respectively. So its easy to see why the talented team, while having beaten #13 Maryland in a weekend series, struggled with LA Tech, splitting a series with them last week, with the win being a 1 run win in a weather shortened game.
Coach Mike Bianco has a lot of championship experience to help steer the ship in the right direction. Not only does he have the championship last year on his resume, but College World Series fans will remember him as the assistant coach to Skip Bertman on the “gorilla-ball” LSU teams of the mid-90s. In fact, the poster boy for gorilla-ball, Eddy Furniss, sent his son to his former hitting coach. Freshman Will Furniss is picking up right where his dad left off, hitting .364 with 2 home runs already in his young career.
The Big Red is expected to start against their 3rd Lefty of the weekend in Indianapolis transfer Xavier Rivas. Rivas dominated the competition, going 10-1 with a 2.81 ERA in his 2 years there, and winning pitcher of the year in the Midwest region in that division. He’s been up and down in his 2 starts for Ole Miss so far, striking out 8, and allowing 1 run in 4.1 innings vs Delaware, but giving up 6 earned runs and 3 HRs in the slugfest against Maryland.
The Ole Miss bullpen has has some struggles with the power bats of Maryland in the later innings, but has 2 top freshman pitchers in Cole Ketchum and Brayden Jones have made a combine 7 appearances, struck out 5, and given up zero earned runs in their 8.1 innings of work. Jones seems to have assumed the closer role, with 2 of the teams 4 saves on the year.
The Rebel offense does not seem to have lost a step with its big name departures from last year. They are hitting .352 with 17 doubles, 20 home runs and 84 RBIs in their 9 games so far. Short stop Jacob Gonzalez, is back and leading the team after being 1st team All SEC last year, and the D1Baseball.com freshman of the year in the country in 2021. He’s batting .441 with 2 Home Runs and 14 RBIs so far. Right Fielder Kemp Alderman is back for a bigger role on the team after being a pivotal piece in Omaha at the CWS. He is leading the team with 4 home runs on the season.
This is the first matchup between Ole Miss and Nebraska.