Coming off a home-opener against a Division II team, you aren't likely to find much about yourself that you don't already know if you are a Nebraska Baseball player. Granted, any time on the field is better in the end, but it's the competition that ultimately decides just how good you are. For the Baylor series, it was obviously not NU's first test, but their first big conference test as Nebraska looks to dominate the Big XII once again.
The series opened to a bit of a surprise as it wasn't Steven White Nebraska was facing, but Justin Taylor. Not to take anything away from Taylor (he was undefeated coming into this contest), but White is considered Baylor's "Ace" and against Komine, it seemed to be the logical choice. Baylor obviously disagreed, putting Taylor on the mound against NU's star-thrower. "I think all of us were a little surprised about that", Jeff Leise said in reference to White not being the starter for game one, but it wasn't something he was surprised to see. "I think it is something that a lot of people will do is save their ace for Saturday and kind of concede the Friday game to Shane."
For the opener of the series it was Shane Komine simply being Shane Komine as he didn't have his best stuff, but as most in the country have found to their chagrin, even at less than perfect, Komine is still a formidable foe. Komine faced 29 batters, giving up 7 hits and allowed 3 earned runs. Again, not what most have become accustomed to seeing, but for the Nebraska bats, it was more than enough as Nebraska trounced Baylor 15-4. Highlighting this game for NU was Jeff Leise, who went 3-5, knocking two solo-shots beyond the fences. This marks his second multi-homer game of his career. Adding to that were Drew Anderson, Jeff Blevins and Daniel Bruce who all had 3 RBIs a piece to help NU stretch out their lead.
In game 2, it was a game of not of inches, but pitches as Baylor's go-to guy, Steven White faced NU's second-in-command on the mound, Jamie Rodrigue. Given the obvious chess match that the Baylor coaches were playing, putting White on the mound, this was a game they thought was easier to take from Nebraska with Jamie on the mound, than from Komine. It almost didn't happen, as Jamie Rodrigue pitched a gem, going 6 and a third and only allowing one earned run. "He's a great pitcher and he threw a great game(on Saturday)," Jeff Leise stated. And though Rodrigue didn't get the win this game, Leise stated, that Jamie gives them a great chance and pointing back to the strategy of NU opponents putting their main guy on the mound the following day instead of facing them against Komine, Jeff said that it's not all on Rodrigue to get the victories. "We have to find a way to beat their ace on Saturdays and with Jamie on the mound, I think we have a great chance to do that."
This game did literally come down to an at-bat here or there and though the statistics of batters left on base isn't always the sole factor in a contest, in this one, the 2-1 edge that Baylor had on NU was telling. "What they (Baylor) did was they got some really clutch hits", Will Bolt stated. "They were driving balls in the gaps and driving guys in and I think that was the difference. We just couldn't get anything going Saturday and on Sunday, we waited until the 8th inning and by then, it was too late."
For the aforementioned game 3 on Sunday, it was Baylor's pitching that again won the day as Jed Theodorakos proved that his one-hit performance against USC wasn't a fluke, pitching 6 innings, striking out 8 and allowing only one earned run. "Baylor has a great team", Will said. "They are real deep and their pitching is real good and deep."
Matt Hopper and Jed Morris led the Huskers with 2 hits each, Hopper knocking in 2 RBIs, while Brandon Eymann added two RBIs as well.
The Aggies loom large as the conference home-opener approaches. Coming off a series win with Baylor obviously would of had people in a different mind-set coming into this round-about with Texas A&M, but a loss doesn't necessarily bring a feeling of foreboding on the NU team.
Nebraska is close. Close to doing just what fans have become accustomed and that is going on their almost patented runs. From winning-streaks like the 9 and 13 game tears of last year, it's almost an expectation that now is the time for Nebraska to make it's move. Catcher, John Grose agreed. "We are 13 games into the season. We need to start winning those (one point) games." Brandon Eymann added, "I think the coaches do a good job of preparing us for the conference schedule, so we should have been ready"(For Baylor).
With an obvious sense of urgency in their minds, NU will take to the field against a hot Texas A&M team. The Aggies stand second in the conference with only one loss on their league schedule thus far. They stand only a few spots down in the "Baseball America" poll and would dramatically improve their stock with a couple W's over the Huskers. As Brandon Eymann once stated, it's only a matter of time before Nebraska puts it all together, where hitting, pitching and defense work as a unit instead of one seemingly carrying the other. Come March 15th in their conference home-opener against Texas A&M, we will see if that time is now.
Thanks to Huskers.com for the stats and as always, to the Huskers for their time. Check out Going "Deep Thoughts" as Scott Kuhn takes a look at this past weekend and just for fun, check out As the Ball Turns as you find out just who the better bowlers are.