Big Ten baseball tournament: Mapping out NU's possible path through the losers bracket

Nebraska's Derek Burkamper likely will not pitch for the rest of the Big Ten tournament, but the starting rotation behind him is strong. 

Nebraska's right where it didn't want to be: stuck in the Big Ten tournament losers bracket after just one day of action.

But the Huskers want to win this thing — and because their pitchers have collectively improved over the season's second half, they have a legitimate chance to stick around for a while.

Five wins in four days. That's what it will take to win a championship.

Nobody's fought all the way through the loser's bracket in this event, even back when there were just six teams in the field. Three years ago, Nebraska won three straight elimination contests to earn a spot in the Big Ten tournament title game (the Huskers did get a victory in their opener that year; they lost the championship to Indiana).

NU will give it a try. It won't be easy. And none of this will matter if the Huskers can't beat a desperate Indiana team Thursday.

But for those who like to think ahead: Here's how Nebraska's starting rotation could set up the rest of the weekend:

Thursday vs. IU: Fr. RHP Matt Waldron (18 2/3 straight scoreless innings)

Friday vs. MSU-Mary loser: So. LHP Jake Meyers (last 6 starts: 5-0, 1.14 ERA, 0.70 WHIP)

Saturday vs. Iowa-OSU/Mich winner: Jr. LHP Max Knutson (last 4 starts: 3-0, 1.96 ERA)

Saturday vs. Iowa/OSU/Mich: RFr. LHP Jake McSteen (2-2, 4.56 ERA in 7 starts & 7 relief outings)

Sunday's title game: So. RHP Zack Engelken (0-2, 8.53 ERA in 5 starts & 4 relief outings)

Consider too that Nebraska's most durable relievers, senior Jeff Chesnut and freshman Chad Luensmann, did not throw Wednesday. They're both capable of throwing in back-to-back games on back-to-back days, certainly.

Freshman right-hander Robbie Palkert's been a reliable option for NU. Reliever Reece Eddins threw 42 pitches and Garett King tossed 22 pitches in the loss to Michigan State, so they both may need a couple days to bounce back — but they'll likely be ready by the weekend.

Even junior Ben Miller, who's only made one appearance, could be an option. He's been throwing bullpens and side sessions to keep that arm loose all season long.

The Huskers aren't done yet. But they'll likely need some breaks to go their way, some brilliant pitching efforts, some big-time hits and probably a few more breaks to pull this thing off.

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