LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-7, 3-0 B1G) have been in the midst of a 16-game homestand, which ends on Tuesday night after hosting the Creighton Bluejays to Hawks Field. Over the course of the first 15 games, NU attendance has reached 58,845. The Huskers have defended their home turf vigorously, to the fans delight, as they have posted a 14-1 record over the stretch of that homestand.
After splitting a mid-week series with Cal State Fullerton, and sweeping a No. 9 ranked Texas Longhorns team, NU finds itself arriving in the College Baseball Central Top 25 at No.19.
Up until Wednesday, the Huskers had been riding an 11-game winning streak, which ended at Hawks Field, after they lost their first home game of the year by a score of 4-3 to CSF.
NU has however, established themselves as the Big Ten team to beat at this point, after posting sweeps in each of their last three weekend series.
Remarkable play from the pitching staff has been the proof in the pudding, as against the Longhorns they only allowed three runs over 33 innings pitched, and only one run in the first 32 innings of that series.
Huskers pitching rang up 33 strikeouts, which is the most by a Nebraska team in a three game set since 2008, when Texas A&M sent 43 batters back to the pine. The 33 K’s over the series is the most head coach Darin Erstad has witnessed during his tenure as well.
Sophomore RHP Derek Burkamper, and senior LHP Kyle Kubat, along with senior RHP Chance Sinclair, have been stellar this year posting a combined record of 12-4.
Burkamper struck out a career-high six batters in a career-long 8.1 innings Sunday against Texas, and five times on that day retired the Longhorns in order. Remarkably enough, he also retired 10 straight hitters from the third through sixth frames while shutting out UT for the first eight frames of the contest, and only permitted one Longhorn hit.
Sinclair holds a career record of 13-4, together with a picture-perfect 7-0 record in the course of Big Ten play ensuing a victory over Michigan last weekend. He punched in his third consecutive win in game one of the UT series to improve to 4-3 on the season. The third-team preseason All-American held Texas hitless until the sixth inning, and let four runners on base. Sinclair also fanned six Longhorns, counting five over the first three frames.
If Kubat collects 20 wins, he will tie Zach Kroenke (2003-05) and Jim Sandstedt (1946-49) for ninth place in the Husker hurler career record book.
In game two of the UT series, Kubat, along with relief pitchers Jake Hohensee, Colton Howell and Jeff Chesnut held UT to just four hits and gave up only three base-on-balls, as they racked up an astonishing 19 strikeouts on the day as well — the most by Nebraska since 2009 when 22 K’s were recorded during a 15 inning contest versus Louisiana-Lafayette.
Kubat worked 8.0 innings in the start and for the second-straight game but failed to pick up the win despite striking out a career-high nine batters. Kubat sat down the last 13 batters he faced in what was his third career day out of at least 8.0 innings.
After this past week’s performance, Nebraska sets itself apart in the Big Ten, a conference that is as much up-for-grabs as a conference has ever been. Right now, they’re the top dog. Nationally they have garnered consideration as a top 25 team. Their 2.36 team ERA and .278 team batting average has them ranked No. 18 in the d1baseball.com Top 25.
The Huskers next B1G opponent is Maryland (18-7, 4-2 B1G), who will host Nebraska for a three game series this coming weekend. Maryland was the early money favorite to win the Big Ten to start the year, however, NU is the odds on favorite now. At this point the home team has shown the advantage. Nebraska is 7-6 on the road, while the Terps are a perfect 6-0 at home. Nebraska will need those arms on the mound to keep it rolling and the bats are going to have to heat up, as the winner of this series will take the top slot in the Big Ten.