LINCOLN — Nebraska’s Josh Scheffert sees no reason for dropoff after a breakout year in 2012, but he’s being cautioned to monitor his motivation so as not to strive for unattainable marks.
Coach Darin Erstad is telling his much-improved senior third baseman to seek measured improvement. That’s because in baseball, a constant push for perfection can sometimes carry negative consequences.
“That’s the thing we all fight is the roller coaster ride of emotions and performance — but (him) just understanding that if he goes out and does what he did last year, or close to it, that’s a successful year in my book,” Erstad said. “He had a tremendous year.”
Scheffert hit .358, had eight home runs and drove in 41 — he was a .220 hitter the year before. He dropped his strikeout rate in half (he struck out in 13 percent of at-bats in 2012 after recording a percentage of 27.3 during his sophomore season). His .599 slugging percentage was highest among Huskers and third best in the Big Ten.
Scheffert, also a Northwoods League all-star this summer, credits the success to his revamped mental approach at the plate, though it’s an aspect of his game that he says continually needs attention and development.
The last month of fall practice has been a “learning process,” Scheffert said.
“Hitting, it comes and goes,” he said. “You’re trying to stick to the plan, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. You have these lulls.”
Hence the determination to improve.
“Be even more consistent,” Scheffert said. “You always want that.”
But Erstad’s point: Getting better daily is one thing; pressing because your goals are off-base is another.
“Josh just needs to be Josh and not feel like he has to go out there and carry the team or put up ungodly numbers,” Erstad said. “Just go out there and play his game. That’s where I want his focus to be.”
Scheffert should have plenty of help in a veteran-filled NU lineup next spring. Nebraska is set to return six of the eight starting position players from a year ago, its designated hitter and a few part-time contributors off the bench.
A team that had just four seniors on its roster last year will have eight when the 2013 season begins, and each is expected to play a critical role.
“There are a lot of guys at the end of their college careers who are highly motivated,” Erstad said. “I’m very proud with the way they’ve approached from an effort and attitude standpoint.”
That’s led to a productive fall, according to Erstad.
The challenge will be to carry that approach into the spring. Consistency escaped the Huskers last year, resulting in a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten.
They’re determined for a better finish, according to Scheffert. Ending a postseason drought that dates to 2008 is a top priority.
But Erstad is reminding them to keep their objectives in perspective.
“There’s enough pressure in this game already,” Erstad said. “You don’t need to put any more on yourself.”
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