Published Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm / Updated at 9:00 pm
Baseball
NU’s Pritchard driven by more than stats
Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Surprise, Ariz., and Goodyear, Ariz.
Radio: 1110 AM KFAB

Game One: Nebraska vs. No. 2 Oregon State (4-0)
When: 2 p.m. Friday
Pitchers: Sr. RHP Christian DeLeon (0-0, 6.23) vs. So. RHP Andrew Moore (0-0, 1.50)

Game Two: NU vs. Washington (2-1-1)
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Pitchers: Jr. LHP Aaron Bummer (0-1, 12.00) vs. Sr. RHP Zach Wright (0-0, 9.00)

Game Three: NU vs. Utah (2-2)
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Pitchers: Jr. RHP Chance Sinclair (1-0, 0.00) vs. So. RHP Dalton Carroll (0-0, 10.80)

LINCOLN — The baseball disappeared behind the right-field wall, and senior Michael Pritchard rounded first base with every intention to savor his first unimpeded trot around the diamond.

After 516 career at-bats as a Husker, he finally had his home run.

He’d adjusted his swing during the summer for a moment like this. He’d devoted an hour nearly every day this month to his mechanics under the watch of assistant coach Will Bolt. He’s been laughing off the jokes from teammates for years.

Yet something wasn’t right on Sunday.

“It was kind of an empty feeling,” Pritchard said. “I hit that home run. I was sitting there. I was happy for about 10 seconds, and I realized we were down 5-1 and it really didn’t matter that much.”

Just get the win. That’s Pritchard’s objective. Nothing more.

So there’s no need to bring up the solo shot that sparked an unsuccessful rally in a 5-3 loss to Gonzaga, or the four other extra-base hits the left-hander had while Nebraska went 2-2 on its opening weekend.

Forget that he’s the first player in NU history to record two separate hitting streaks of 20-plus games — and that he’s failed to get at least one hit in just 12 games since becoming a full-time starter in 2012.

Pritchard takes a 46-game on-base streak to the Pac-12/Big Ten challenge starting Friday against No. 2 Oregon State. And if Pritchard extends the streak through the weekend, it’ll be a school record dating back to 2000 (when the program began tracking on-base streaks).

But point out those personal achievements, and Pritchard will inevitably start thinking about the Huskers’ losing record last year. Or the fact that Nebraska hasn’t reached an NCAA regional since he’s been here.

“I’ve never won a state championship, I’ve never won a conference championship — I’ve never won anything,” Pritchard said. “All I want to do is get a ring at the end of the year.”

It took him nearly a full collegiate career to figure out how to weave that mentality into his daily routine.

There was the weekend when Pritchard temporarily quit baseball, back when he was a “scared freshman.” Practice hadn’t started yet, but Pritchard was on the porch with his dad on the first day of classes when the phone rang. It was then-coach Mike Anderson.

“Do I need to come get you?”

No. Dad wasn’t letting Pritchard give up that easily.

But things got more difficult for Pritchard. He strutted to home plate later that fall and assumed he’d launch the ball into the outfield bullpen, but he was left glaring at harmless groundballs throughout the season.

He eventually took the advice of NU coach Darin Erstad to start using the opposite field more. He’s expanded his approach since.

That desire to adapt and improve is what the Nebraska coaches admire about Pritchard.

As Bolt puts it, not every 20-year-old ballplayer is willing to look at himself in the mirror and consider a change. Especially with a new staff guiding the process.

“There were many heart-to-heart talks, very pointed and honest conversations,” Bolt said. “I was on him probably as hard as anybody.”

Pritchard says that’s what he needed.

He’d always wanted to win, but he just recently realized what it takes. Now he wants to finish off his NU career on a high note.

“There’s one goal here, and that’s winning a championship,” Pritchard said.

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa

jon.nyatawa@owh.com    |   402-473-9585    |  

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

PHOTO GALLERY AND VIDEO »

 

< >
SPOTLIGHT »
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Omaha.com? Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.
Omaha.com's Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from Omaha.com and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
BRT ON TWITTER »
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT »
< >