Husker baseball takes positive pitching step in fall exhibition
Take it with the largest grain of salt your body can physically handle.
But after a 2018 season during which its pitching crumbled from the top down, the Nebraska baseball team perhaps took a step toward correcting the issue Saturday.
Now, this was in the least-stressful of environments — a first-of-its-kind fall scrimmage against visiting Wichita State in front of a few dozen fans — but the numbers at the very least were encouraging.
Over 14 innings of baseball, eight Husker pitchers combined to allow three runs, with all the Shockers’ scoring coming in the last three innings of the day. During the second of two seven-inning sessions, four NU pitchers combined to allow just three hits.
After a year in which Nebraska ranked 231st nationally out of 297 Division I teams in earned-run average, and 234th in hits allowed per nine innings, it was a start.
“It’s great. Just learning, really, how to compete,” senior right-hander Reece Eddins said. “That’s our biggest goal (in the fall), just competing. We’re doing different challenges every week, almost every day, just learning how to get that etched into our brains.”
Eddins (9.00 ERA in eight appearances last season) pitched a pair of scoreless innings to open the day. The fifth-year senior was as excited as anyone to see a different-colored jersey during fall workouts.
“It honestly just made it feel like it was spring already, which was a great feeling. Just good change of pace from practice,” Eddins said. “I’ve been here for five years now, and every practice we’ve just scrimmaged ourselves. So (doing that) time after time, it can get kind of boring after a while. But seeing someone else, it’s like ‘Hey, this is still baseball. It’s still fun.’ So I thought it was great.”
With temperatures in the low 70s, a slight breeze out of the south, and sunny skies, it was certainly better weather than the Huskers had through most of what passed for spring in 2018.
For senior left-hander Nate Fisher (7.24 ERA in 15 appearances), the exhibition provided an opportunity to continue to polish up the basics. He followed up Eddins on Saturday with a pair of scoreless innings of his own.
“Just trusting my pitches, throwing it over the plate, competing,” Fisher said. “The biggest thing I struggled with last year was height (of pitches). So better height, hit the knees at the bottom of the zone.”
The teams met thanks to an NCAA rule change earlier this year that allows Division I teams to play up to two exhibition games in the fall without those games counting against a team’s 56-game spring schedule.
Previously, if a team played a game in the fall, the contest counted against the spring schedule.
The exhibition was just about as casual as casual can get. Fans were allowed into Haymarket Park for free and the teams played a total of 14 innings split into two seven-inning sessions. No official statistics and no scores were kept.
Unofficially, Nebraska “won” the first session 8-0 and the second 5-3.
Nebraska will play its second exhibition Oct. 6 against Kansas. The annual Red-White series is scheduled for Oct. 19 and Oct. 26-27.