LINCOLN — Nebraska won’t face the Big Ten’s reigning champion during the 2014 regular season, but it will play two neutral site games against another College World Series participant.
The Huskers released their 2014 schedule on Monday, a slate that’s not as challenging as last year’s but one that coach Darin Erstad hopes will rank among the top 50 toughest nationally.
Nebraska hosts St. John’s, UNLV and UC Irvine for weekend home series, while playing midweek contests against Creighton, Kansas State, Arkansas and Wichita State. The Huskers will start the season at two neutral site tournaments — both of which feature Oregon State, which reached the CWS last year.
“We’re going to get challenged right out of the gate,” Erstad told reporters a few weeks ago. “We’re going to have to play very well and be ready to go.”
The Huskers’ started 0-7 and never made it back over .500 last year as they struggled to gain confidence against talented opponents away from home.
The competition level will drop a bit in 2014, though. There will be 27 home games (as opposed to the 21 scheduled last year). And Nebraska won’t have to play Indiana in the regular season — the Hoosiers will be the presumed Big Ten favorite this spring after reaching the CWS last June.
But with a young team, every week will be difficult, Erstad said.
“It’s definitely going to be challenging,” he said.
The Huskers will also play two games against the University of Nebraska at Omaha this season — one in Lincoln (April 16) and one at Werner Park (April 30).
Edrington out with ACL injury
Sophomore shortstop Wes Edrington will miss extensive time after tearing his ACL during fall practice.
Edrington hit .203 in 26 games during his first year with the Huskers.
Also out for this week’s Red-White scrimmage at Haymarket Park: Tanner Lubach (hip), Taylor Doggett (elbow) and Kyle Kubat.
The staff wanted to be cautious with Kubat after the junior lefty was plagued by arm soreness to start last season. Same approach with junior Aaron Bummer, who was named the starting pitcher for the East squad in the Cape Cod League All-Star game.
But Bummer told Erstad he wanted to pitch this week. “I’ve left it up to him,” Erstad said.
Erstad tries difficult approach
Erstad said he’s managed the fall practice season a bit differently with 18 newcomers on the roster.
He’s been trying to put players in specific situations and he’s created scenarios just to see certain matchups. Anything to get a clear evaluation to use next spring.
It’s part of the reason the Huskers waited until Thursday to draft their teams for this week’s scrimmage.
The past two seasons they were divided into separate squads either at the start of fall or midway through. But this year, Erstad wanted to control the lineups to test his guys as long as he could.
“It’s been fun putting together those different combinations,” Erstad said. “I just keep an open mind.”