Loon Droppings, Vol. SR

Mom, we're breaking out the good China. We're taking the plastic off the couch. We're washing the dog, because it's all good times for NU fans this week. Yeah, ok, we won a regional and are probably going to host a Super Regional again, but that's not what I am talking about. It's Loon-Time, so straighten that tie, stand up straight and SUCK THAT GUT IN. Back from the off-season, it's the Loon on YOUR NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS. (baseball)

Ever since I was an itty-bitty Loon, every Tom, George Will, Dick and Harry has alluded to baseball as a metaphor for life. You know the (hitting) drill: Baseball starts in the spring, the season of rebirth. And it concludes deep into the fall, just as the earth goes into its seemingly eternal winter sleep. But these days, the baseball-is-life analogy is about as original as an Oldsmobile Alero adorned with 17-county license plates. Besides, the Almighty Nebraska Cornhuskers started their season waaay back in the wintery (brrr) icebox that was mid-February. Slowed by the cold, NU got off to a sputtering start in '02. But things slowly started to simmer, and by the time this weekend's 90-degree Lincoln Regional rolled around, the Huskers were downright hot. Red hot. Heyyyy ... whaddaya know, there IS a metaphor to be made from this baseball season, after all.

A few takes:

REGION FOR STRAWS: About the same time Nebraska was Lawn-Boying through Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marist and Southwest Missouri State this weekend, expected bracket-mates Wake Forest were perfecting their very best Jimi Hendrix routine. Before the wake at Wake, the chances of a Super Regional coming to Lincoln were about as thin as the dialogue in "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones." But the Demon Deacons' loss suddenly means that no matter what, the Huskers will end their season in the friendly confines of their home state. This is a very good thing, considering Nebraska is 27-5 within Der Fatherland's borders this season. Hell, even if Wake would have held up their end of the deal, NU still would have had a Fonoti-sized case for playing at home, given the number of Loons that flocked to Haymarket Park this weekend. Of course, there were a fair share of No. 7 jerseys in attendance, but this year they were there to cheer on Will Bolt, not a certain ex-signalcaller from Millard. ! Well done, Loons.

AYATOLLAH YOU SO: Nary an eyebrow was raised at the end of the tournament when NU ace Shane Komine was tabbed the tourney's outstanding pitcher. Well, gee, do you really think so? Komine's 5-hit, 12-strikeout complete game against Marist made this pick about as exciting, titilating and controversial as C-SPAN at 1 a.m. I've said it before about this guy's breaking ball -- if you watch it long enough, you too will believe in telekinesis. Komine's got curves that make Britney Spears look like Callista Flockhart, and when he's got it goin' on Nebraska can hang with anyone in the country. But we'd be remiss in not mentioning the job by lefty Brian Duensing, whose six innings of work Friday halted Wisconsin-Milwaukee's little insurrection right quick. With solid (Hale) damage control coming from the bullpen, the 'Skers are starting to put all the pieces in place on the bump ... just in time for the stretch run.

HOT AND (VAN) HORNY: Rarely do you see Skip lose his cool, but apparently Van Horn had simply had enough of the 1,000 percent humidity on Saturday with his team up 9-0 over Marist. That or he had heard plenty from the Red Foxes' coaches and players about an errant stolen base late in the blowout. Boy, that ejection was quick; perhaps Dave said the one word that umpires simply do not stand for -- and if you do not know which word that is, I hereby order you to proceed immediately to the nearest Blockbuster Video and rent "Bull Durham", you uncultured rube -- which led to the early visit to the showers for No. 2. But the little donnybrook succeeded in waking up the Cornhuskers, along with the massive red-clad throng at Hawks Field. Up until that point, the volume level at the park resembled Monday morning at Sheldon Art Gallery. As if this team needed some more fire lit under them, eh?

PUTTIN' ON THE HITS: During this 14-of-the-last-15 streak, NU's bats haven't just woke up. They've gotten up, got out of bed and dragged a comb across their head. Who's hitting the ball better in the clutch right now? Is it John Grose, who merely swung for .500 during the regional? Or is it Jed Morris, who serves up more doubles on game day than the bartender at Barry's Bar? Or maybe it's Will Bolt, who is riding a pretty 18-game hit streak. Or Jeff Leise, whose leadoff home run Sunday set the tone for the Husker rout. Or Matt Hopper, who had six RBIs over the weekend. Or ... or ... you get the picture. Perhaps the most gratifying sight to see in this three-game stretch was Joltin' Joe Simokaitis, who had been 0-for-the regional until Sunday, swat out a trio of hits Sunday to fight off his recent slump. Simply put, all the pistons on the Big Red Machine are firing.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This summer's big blockbuster, "Spider-Man," is about a no-name social reject who gains the porportionate strength and powers of an arachnid, and then goes after the big, bad bullies of the world in the name of The Little Guy. This should serve as motivation for the Richmond Spiders, Nebraska's last hurdle to clear before Omaha. The Spiders are familiar at least with this very same underdog role -- hell, about the only other thing the average sports fan can remember about this school is its upset of Indiana in the '87 hoops tourney. So those Loons penciling in a second straight CWS appearance for the Cornhuskers might be a bit premature. The Spiders have a slew of live arms and plenty of hot bats, meaning Husker fans could be crawling the walls before this series is over. But check out this (web) spin: Even a science nerd like Peter Parker can tell you how tough it can be to snare a super-foe in his own back yard. Come into my lair, said the Huskers to the S! piders ... see you next weekend at Haymarket Park. Go Big Red!

Red. White. Loon.
Show your true colors in THE POND,
Home of Nebraska's RED CLAD LOON.

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