LINCOLN — Back in high school, Bryan Peters and his summer baseball squad passed through Omaha during the 2005 College World Series. That was the senior's first glimpse of Nebraska's program.
Senior Dylan Vogt, a Millard South product, doesn't remember the specifics of his initial Husker experience — just that it included some combination of Joba Chamberlain striking guys out, Alex Gordon hitting line drives and a raucous Haymarket Park making every night meaningful.
It's what lured senior Chad Christensen, whose first visit to Lincoln came in 2008 for a top 10 doubleheader between NU and Texas A&M. “Seeing the fans and seeing this place at its finest was pretty cool,” he said.
These seniors want to bring that back.
Peters, Vogt, Christensen and their five other classmates talk about it all the time — being the group that fortifies the Nebraska program with examples of success, capping their up-and-down careers with a positive narrative as they steer the Huskers back on course.
“We all came in here with that hope,” Christensen said. “Sometimes things happen that way. It's still been a tremendous four years. I love this place. Maybe this can be the year where we get that back on track.”
This weekend is another chance at closing in on that goal.
The Huskers (20-23, 11-4 Big Ten) host No. 16 Indiana for a three-game set beginning Saturday, just the second time since 2008 that a ranked team is visiting Haymarket on a May weekend. NU hasn't been this close to a conference title in five years, either.
Nebraska and IU (34-8, 11-4) will be battling to break a tie for second place in the league. They're chasing Big Ten leader Minnesota, which began a three-game series at last-place Penn State with an 11-2 win Friday. The Huskers travel to face the Gophers (26-14, 9-3) next week.
“We're not going to let these last three weeks slip by,” Christensen said. “We're going to do everything we can to get that No. 1 seed (in the Big Ten tournament), go win that and put ourselves in a (NCAA) regional.”
The prize for every conference tournament champ is an automatic spot in the 64-team postseason. It's the only way Nebraska can guarantee an NCAA bid — its four-game skid last week likely knocked it out of contention for at-large consideration.
But just being in this position is encouraging for the Husker seniors. They stayed committed through Nebraska's recent turmoil — individual low points, losing seasons, a coaching change — for a chance like this.
“Once we're finally here, we're not going to let the opportunity pass us by,” Vogt said. “We're going to make the most of it.”
The Huskers' last appearance in the NCAA tournament came in 2008, just a few months before Christensen, Peters and the rest of this current NU team's core signed their letters of intent.
So they say their goal now is simple.
“We want to take the next step and make a regional,” Peters said. “This year's big. We've still got a chance to do something special.”
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