Published Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm / Updated at 3:40 pm
Huskers aim for better finish at start

LINCOLN — The last two season-opening weekends couldn't have gone much worse for Nebraska.

The Huskers were swept by Gonzaga in three games to start 2012. Last year, they lost four games in three days and then Texas swept them a week later. The 0-7 start was NU's worst since 1942.

Nebraska's players remember it all too well. Nothing swallows up preseason optimism like a winless debut weekend.

“That's not a good feeling,” junior outfielder Austin Darby said. “None of the guys want to go through that again.”

The Huskers actually haven't won a season opener since 2009.

The chance to change that comes in Friday's opener against Pacific at the Los Angeles Angels' spring training facility in Tempe, Ariz. They'll then face No. 2 Oregon State, which reached the College World Series last year, in a noon game Saturday before matching up against Gonzaga later that day, and again on Sunday.

The three-day, four-team event is called the Husker Classic. It began as an invitation from Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who managed NU coach Darin Erstad for several years in the major leagues.

“(Scioscia) said, 'Hey, why don't you bring your team down? You can play at our field, and bring a couple teams with you,' ” Erstad said.

So that's what the Huskers did.

And now they want to win. Erstad said it'll come down to how his team plays defense and carries out its strategy on the mound.

“Throwing strikes and playing defense,” Erstad said. “Those types of things are non-negotiable when it comes to baseball for me.”

Nebraska will have to find a way to close games out, too.

The Huskers blew a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning of one game during last year's opening weekend. They were shut out in another hours later. Then they surrendered a ninth-inning lead and lost in the opponent's last at-bat. Against Gonzaga two years ago, NU led after the sixth inning in all three defeats.

“It's a lot harder to come back after something like that,” Darby said, “than it is to maybe get a quick win or get a few wins the first weekend — and then start rolling.”

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.



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