It's easy to overlook an opponent when the biggest series of the season is coming up. It's easy to forget about what's right in front of you when the horizon offers such opportunity combined with such peril. It's easy for us that is, but not for the players as Van Horn's philosophy of taking it one game at a time certainly exists and besides, this is Wichita State. A consistent power, the Shockers once again are ranked near the top and Nebraska players know they have to be ready. "This is an RPI game, so it's huge", catcher, John Grose stated. "It could come down to us to (Texas and Nebraska) getting the regional."
The obvious sense of urgency well in place, no game is unimportant, least of all against one of the best teams in the country. "They've got a lot of speed", Grose said of Wichita State. "They are going to throw their best players at us and they have two guys that are great base stealers." Two? Make that three as WSU players, Brian Burgamy, Randy Walter and Dustin Hawkins have no less than 17 stolen bases, Hawkins leading them with 28 steals on just 31 attempts.
As a team, WSU is hitting almost .302 and the pitching unit sports an ERA just over 3.0. If that isn't enough, two of their pitchers have 50+ strikeouts on the year and two of their hitters have scored 40+ runs. You can sum it up easily, they aren't weak in any one area. Grose even made mention of one player that though you don't see his name amongst the leaders, he's as dangerous as they come. "They are going to throw Jakubov (Matthew) at us and on the scouting report, it's says 87-90 mph, but Josh Birmingham knows a couple of guys on that team and he said that he touches 97, so he's obviously a pretty good pitcher."
As per Van Horn's typical strategy, nobody knows what the entire line-up for the game will be until the game actually gets here. Phil Shirek is expected to take the mound, Phil sporting a 2.41 ERA and a 4-1 record. The aforementioned Jakubov is 2-1 on the season with a 2.84 ERA.
This series between the Huskers and the Shockers favors WSU, but by only one game (17-16), so Nebraska can even it up tonight. Van Horn's club beat WSU in their last meeting, 8-1 in the Minneapolis regional during the 2000 season.
Nebraska: 30-15 ranked 15/17/14
WSU: 32-10 ranked 14/12/12
Game time: 6:35 p.m. central