It might not seem like it, but baseball season is here for the Big Red. Nebraska will look to improve off their second place finish in the Big Ten in 2016 this season starting with a weekend series at UC Riverside.
Not only did the Huskers finish second in the Big Ten during the regular season, they made their 14th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history last season.
"It was a good experience just to go through it and light a fire under our guys," Nebraska Head Coach Erstad said. "At the end of the day we've got a whole new season and we've got a lot of stuff to earn, but you do learn from it...we're just going to have to reset and get it going."
Nebraska returns some key players this season, including most of its pitching staff. The Huskers return 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and second-team All-Big Ten selection Chad Luensmann. The sophomore relief pitcher racked up 13 saves with a 1.18 ERA last season.
The Huskers will get junior starting pitcher Jake Meyers back this season as well. Meyers posted a 6-1 record and a 1.42 ERA for Nebraska last year.
"Like my dad always told me, you can never have enough pitching," head coach Darin Erstad said. "We have some depth there, we have some guys that are going to get opportunities, especially with eight games in the first two weekends where we're going to need more than just a few arms."
Another key returner for the Huskers is junior outfielder Scott Schreiber. The first-team All-Big Ten honoree recorded a .325 batting average a season ago.
One hole Nebraska will need to fill is outfielder Ryan Boldt. The 2016 All-Big Ten member was a force at the plate for the Huskers and finished sixth in the Big Ten in runs scored. Boldt was selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
"Ryan was a huge part of what we did, so we've got a couple of holes to fill but that's the fun of it," Erstad said. "That's the beauty of seeing a team come together and mesh with different personalities and hearing those new voices."
Although the season has not even begun, there is already some adversity for Nebraska. The Huskers open up this season with a double-header Friday against UC Riverside due to weather concerns. This marks the first time Nebraska has opened the season on a double-header since the 2008 season.
The Cornhuskers' schedule does not do them any favors this season either. Nebraska is scheduled to play 13 games against teams that made postseason appearances last year, including matchups against Oklahoma State and Arizona in the Frisco Challenge March 3.
"(We need) that sense of urgency of paying attention to the details early on and getting ready to play," Erstad said. "We're going to have some good challenges early on and if we're not up to playing like we can then it's going to be tough."
Despite some early challenges, the Huskers are ranked No. 3 in the Big Ten Preseason Polls behind Maryland and Michigan. The first Big Ten matchup for Nebraska comes March 31 with a weekend series in Indiana against the Hoosiers.
Listen to Greg Sharpe and Omaha Sports Insider's Nick Handley call the Huskers matchup with UC Riverside starting at 2 p.m. Friday on AM 590 ESPN Omaha. Game two of the double-header will start shortly after the first game.