Husker Baseball Opens Spring Drills

With opening day less than a month away, the Nebraska baseball program will take the field for the first practice of the year this Thursday, Jan. 19, inside Cook Pavilion.

The Huskers, who are ranked as high as fourth in the preseason polls, will look to build off the momentum of a record-setting 2005 campaign with 16 returning letterwinners (10 pitchers and six position players). The group includes a pair of All-American hurlers in junior right-hander Joba Chamberlain (10-2, 2.18 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Johnny Dorn (12-2, 2.16 ERA), while closer Brett Jensen (3-5, 16 saves, 1.96 ERA) was selected as a first-team preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Sophomore Tony Watson (6-1, 2.82) also returns to the roster after earning Freshman All-America honors in 2005.

Offensively, Nebraska brings back players who saw significant action from a lineup that helped the program to a school-record 57 wins last spring. The group returns NCAA Lincoln Regional MVP and All-College World Series team outfielder Andy Gerch (.364-4-35) along with Brandon Buckman (.335-2-30) shifts over to first base this season, and catcher Jeff Christy (.236-1-32). In the infield, sophomore Ryan Wehrle (.275-0-25) moves from second to shortshop, while fellow sophomore Jake Opitz (.256-3-14) shifts over to third, as the duo split time at second in 2005.

For Head Coach Mike Anderson, who begins his fourth year at the helm of the Husker program, the first week of drills is important to lay down the proper foundation for success, as the NU opens the spring with 29 freshmen or sophomores on a 39-man roster.

"We are looking forward to the excitement of starting the season," Anderson said. "We had a great off-season conditioning program, and are looking forward to having the whole team together working. They are excited and everybody's eyes are set on the first weekend already. A lot of the things we will do the first weekend will be a review from the fall, but it is important to create the proper mindset."

"We have to get to the point where we play the way the Huskers play baseball - Playing the right way and playing hard all the time," Anderson said. "That is the goal of our practices and everything we do. That is the most important thing – learning the process of how to play the game the right way."

The Huskers open the 2006 season on Thursday, Feb. 16, when they travel to Charleston, S.C., to take on Charleston Southern. That is the first of four games that weekend, as NU will also take on North Carolina State, The Citadel and Richmond in the opening weekend of the year. The home opener is set for Friday, March 10, against SEC power Alabama.

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