This year, Nebraska hasn't enjoyed a consistent amount of success. While it has managed to beat most of the significant teams like Texas A&M and Oklahoma in a series, it's the games against teams like Kansas State and Missouri that now leave Nebraska fighting for their lives. True enough, the Huskers will still be in the post-season, but many could testify to the importance that hosting a regional is.
As Nebraska takes their top 20 ranking and 30.16 record down to Austin to face one of the best teams in the country. Texas leads the conference in both pitching and hitting, so it's a daunting task for any team to overcome. The 5th ranked Longhorns also have a four-game lead over Nebraska, which makes a sweep over UT not just important, but necessary.
Texas comes off an impressive sweep of Oklahoma State, a sound beating of TCU and all they need to take the conference is one and at the most two from this series and of course, winning the last conference series against the Aggies.
The pressure will all be on Nebraska in this one as the starting pitchers will be asked to stop one of the most formidable offenses in the country, but the hitters will have to face the best pitching staff, bar none.
As for Nebraska's pitching, rumors fly around as to Shane Komine's ability or health. Some have even speculated that he will be seen in this series, but nobody is certain in what capacity. Should Komine not be ready to go, your probable starters for Friday, Saturday and Sunday should respectively be, Aaron Marsden, Jamie Rogrigue and Brian Duensing. Considering Rodrigue's last few outings however, the coaching staff might opt for a change on Saturdays, whereas you might see Waylon Byers, Mike Sillman or Phil Shirek. You can assume though that if Komine is ready to go, nobody will know anything about it until that game is about to happen. If Komine is good enough to pitch or even start, that would make a considerable weapon for NU if UT doesn't know and can't plan accordingly.
Going against Husker pitchers will be the statistically best team in the conference, Texas batting .332 on the year. That staff is lead by two batters hitting over .400, Dustin Majewski (.478) and Tim Moss(.429). In fact, Texas has only two players with ten or more games of experience hitting less than .300.
As for the NU hitting versus the Texas pitching, it doesn't get any easier for NU. The best ERA in the country comes out of Austin and every single starter they have with more than 15 innings of work has a combined record of 8-1. Ray Clark and Brad Halsey are tied on the team for strikeouts, each posting 26 Ks this year, thus far. It's going to be up to players like Jeff Leise to take some of the burden off of the pitching staff to put up runs and put them up quickly. Though Texas isn't particularly weak in the bullpen (no pitcher on the roster has an ERA 5 or above), it's going to be their best hope to put points on the board. Jeff Leise and company are going to be expected to produce runs and one of the biggest keys for NU is players left on base. When you have a team that is as fundamentally strong as a Van Horn team usually is, your reliance isn't on power, it's pushing runners home and NU has struggled at times with that.
Probable starters for Texas against Nebraska will be on Friday, Brad Halsey (2-1, 2.3 ERA and 26 strikeouts), Saturday, Justin Simmons (3-0, 3.6 ERA and 9 strikeouts) and on Sunday, Alan Bomer (1-0, 3.6 ERA and 21 strikeouts). It's not certain whether Nebraska catcher, Jed Morris will be catching or play from the DH spot or not, but considering John Grose's great hitting this season, Van Horn might opt to put Morris at DH.
Though NU has two series left, one against Cal-Poly and one against Louisiana Tech, not to mention the eagerly awaited contest versus Creighton at Rosenblatt Stadium, this up-coming series against Texas might be considered the season all wrapped up into three games and on the enemy's home turf. Their backs against the wall, the Huskers are indeed going to have to sweep Texas if they have any shot at not just a regular season conference title, but a regional as well.
So, it's put up or shut up time. This is where it really hits the fan and yes, when talking about the regular season title and when talking about the chance at getting a regional, it's the time for NU to do or die. Maybe it's not so melodramatic after all.