A pair of Nebraska newcomers will take All-Big Ten status into the league tournament this week.
Sophomore outfielder Aaron Palensky and freshman infielder Cam Chick both landed on the All-Big Ten second team. Chick also earned a spot on the all-freshman team. Outfielder Joe Acker was NU’s sportsmanship award winner.
Palensky, a Papillion-La Vista South grad who arrived via Southeast Community College, leads the Huskers in batting average (.339), hits (65), doubles (11), triples (two), home runs (five) and runs scored (36). He also has 28 RBIs.
Chick, a 5-foot-9 left-side infielder/designated hitter from Rocheport, Missouri, is hitting .246 overall but came on with a .316 mark in conference play. A midseason injury to shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach gave Chick an opportunity that he didn’t relinquish. One of the team’s best base runners has four steals and 26 runs scored.
The two all-league selections tie NU’s lowest total as a Big Ten member. The Huskers also had two last season, when they missed the conference tourney for the first time. Four Huskers were recognized following the regular-season title in 2017, and the high mark was seven in 2012.
One notable omission was senior Matt Waldron, Nebraska’s Friday starter throughout the season. The right-hander from Omaha Westside finished 14th in the league with a 3.17 ERA and struck out 70 against six walks in a team-high 821⁄3 innings.
“Matt’s been fantastic,” NU coach Darin Erstad said Monday. “I hope he gets an honor, but it’s not going to change my opinion of him or his value to our team.”
The player of the year is Michigan outfielder Jordan Brewer, and the pitcher of the year is Indiana’s Andrew Saalfrank. Maryland first baseman Maxwell Costes is freshman of the year. First-year Indiana coach Jeff Mercer is coach of the year after guiding the Hoosiers to the regular-season crown.
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1979: Nebraska made its first NCAA tournament after racking up a then-program record for wins during the regular season. The Huskers were sent to the Northeast Regional, hosted by the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. NU dropped its first game 5-0 to St. John's but rebounded with a nine-run victory over Navy later that day. The Huskers' season ended with a 15-0 rout by Connecticut.
1980: Nebraska returned to the NCAA tournament after winning more than 45 games during the regular season for the second straight year. The Huskers went to the Midwest Regional in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and defeated BYU 12-0 in their first game. NU beat the Cougars again the next day — after losing to Michigan the night prior — but its season ended after a 12-3 loss to the Wolverines.
Note: The above picture was taken during the Big Eight tournament.
1985: Nebraska was sent to Northern California for the Western 1 Regional in Palo Alto. The Huskers kicked off the NCAA tournament with a 4-2 victory over Pepperdine, but they lost two straight by one run after that — 9-8 to Stanford and 7-6 to Pepperdine — to see their season end.
1999: Nebraska ended a 14-year NCAA tournament drought after winning the Big 12 tournament. The Huskers went to Columbus, Ohio, where they ran into a pesky Mississippi State team. The Bulldogs defeated NU twice — sandwiched around a Nebraska victory over Bowling Green — to eliminate the Huskers from postseason play.
2000: After winning a second straight Big 12 tournament title, the Huskers also advanced to the super regional round for the first time in program history. The Huskers defeated Butler, Minnesota and Wichita State to win the Minneapolis Regional and set up a date with Stanford in Palo Alto. The Huskers won the first game but lost the next two to the eventual national runners-up.
2001: Nebraska swept the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles and was rewarded with a chance to host an NCAA tournament game for the first time. NU went undefeated through the regional and super regional rounds to make its first College World Series. But the Huskers suffered one-run losses to Cal State Fullerton and Tulane to go two-and-out in Omaha.
2002: The road to Omaha again went through Lincoln for the Huskers, as they swept the Lincoln Regional then defeated Richmond in three games to reach the College World Series. That would also end in heartbreak for NU, though, as the Huskers lost to Clemson in walk-off fashion in their first game, then lost to South Carolina by two to leave Rosenblatt without a victory.
2003: The Huskers made their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament but didn't make it past the regional. NU opened the Lincoln Regional with a win over Eastern Michigan but ended up in the loser's bracket after falling to Southwest Missouri State. The Huskers eliminated EMU the next day then beat SMSU to force a winner-take-all game, but the Bears won that and ended NU's season.
2005: One of the best teams in program history went undefeated in the NCAA tournament on its way to the College World Series. The Huskers also picked up their first CWS victory that year by defeating Arizona State, 5-3, in the opener. But NU would drop its next two games, including a rematch with the Sun Devils that NU lost in 11 innings.
2006: Nebraska followed up its 2006 College World Series appearance with a disappointing run in the NCAA tournament. The Huskers hosted a regional but went two-and-out with losses to Manhattan and San Francisco, scoring only one run in each game.
2007: After a regular season in which Nebraska finished just above .500, the Huskers were the No. 3 seed in the Tempe Regional. The Huskers went into the loser's bracket after dropping their opening game to UC Riverside. NU did rebound with two consecutive wins, including one in a rematch with UC Riverside, but its season ended with a 19-7 loss to host Arizona State.
2008: Nebraska got to host a regional for the third time in four years, but that's where the Huskers' season ended. NU opened the NCAA tournament with a 13-10 victory over Eastern Illinois but lost its next two — 3-2 to UC Irvine and 8-0 to Oral Roberts.
2014: Back in the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years, the Huskers were sent to the Stillwater Regional as a No. 2 seed. Nebraska fell into the loser's bracket with a loss to Cal State Fullerton but defeated Binghamton the next day to avoid elimination. NU would again run into Fullerton and was eliminated with a one-run loss.
2016: It was a disappointing postseason in Darin Erstad's second NCAA tournament appearance as the Husker head coach. After going two-and-out in the Big Ten tournament, NU was sent to the Clemson Regional as the No. 3 seed. The Huskers were shut out in the first game — a 6-0 loss to Oklahoma State — and then lost to No. 4 seed Western Carolina the next day to be eliminated.
2017: Nebraska's Luis Alvarado drove in the only run in its 5-1 loss to Yale at the Corvallis Regional on June 2, 2017. The Huskers, who won the Big Ten regular-season title, would go on to fall to Holy Cross in the loser's bracket, 7-4.