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Huskers Host Hawkeyes for First Time Since 2012

Huskers Host Hawkeyes for First Time Since 2012
Nebraska and Iowa open at three-game series on Friday night at 6:35 p.m. Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

The Nebraska baseball team (20-11-1, 4-1-1 Big Ten) will aim to win its seventh straight Big Ten series this weekend when it hosts the Iowa Hawkeyes (20-11, 3-3 Big Ten) for a three-game series. Going back to last season the Huskers have won six straight Big Ten series, with the last loss coming on April 15-17 last season when NU was swept at Michigan.

In Nebraska’s first season in the Big Ten, 2012, the Hawkeyes came to Lincoln and the Huskers won the series, 2-1. Each of the next three series took place in Iowa City, with the Hawkeyes winning two of the three, including each of the last two series.

In 2012, Iowa took the series opener and the Huskers responded with a win in game two. In the rubber match the Huskers entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 8-5, but a walk-off single from Kale Kiser capped a four-run ninth inning that gave the Huskers the series win.

Since losing consecutive games to Western Carolina in early March, the Huskers have gone 15-3-1 over their last 19 games, including an 8-1-1 record over their last 10 games. The Huskers are 10-3 at home this season, including a 2-1 record during league play.

The Hawkeyes enter the weekend with a 3-3 record in the Big Ten. They opened league play with a home win over Purdue, 2-1, but then lost 2-of-3 at Northwestern last weekend after they won the series opener. The Hawkeyes have posted a 11-3 record over their past 14 games, including an 8-2 record in their last 10 games.

Iowa has dominated opponents at home this year, posting an 11-1 record at Duane Banks Field. The Hawkeyes are just 9-10 away from Iowa City this season, including a 3-7 record in true road games.

Nebraska – Iowa History
Even though Hawks Field in Lincoln and Duane Banks Field in Iowa City are just over 300 miles apart, the Huskers and Hawkeyes have only met 28 times, with the Huskers holding a slim 15-13 lead in the all-time series. The first meeting took place in Iowa City during the 1897 season and the Huskers won 14-7.

The teams met 15 more times over the next 114 years before Nebraska joined the Big Ten for the 2012 season. Since joining the league, the teams have split four series and the Hawkeyes hold a 7-5 advantage.

Nebraska won the first two conference series between the two teams, before the Hawkeyes took 2-of-3 at home in 2014. It was Nebraska’s Big Ten opener in 2014 and the only conference series it lost that season. The Hawkeyes won for the second straight year in 2015 when they swept the Huskers.

Love4Laney/Organ Donor Awareness Day
Saturday it will be Love4Laney/Organ Donor Awareness Day at Hawks Field. The Huskers will be celebrating organ, tissue and eye donation.

Nebraska Organ Recovery Awareness day is being held in honor of Laney Ledbetter (daughter of Husker Baseball Director of Operations Curtis Ledbetter and his wife Monica) and other Nebraskans who are in need of an organ transplant. Families of past donors from the state of Nebraska will also be in attendance.

Nebraska Organ Recovery is also the IMG game-day sponsor and will host a station on the main concourse directly behind home plate, where people can sign up for the donor registry. Sign up only requires the completion of a short form. Fans can also sign up online at nedonation.org. For more information Contact Nebraska Organ Recovery at 402-733-1800.

How to Listen/Watch the Huskers
Fans can listen to Greg Sharpe, Ben McLaughlin and Nick Handley call all the action this season on the Husker Sports Network. Every game this season can be heard on Huskers.com and the Official Nebraska Huskers App for both iOS and android devices.

All three games this weekend against Iowa will be carried on 1400 AM in Lincoln and 590 AM in Omaha. Fans can also listen on TuneIn.com or the TuneIn App on the Husker IMG Sports Network channel.

Friday’s series opener and Saturday’s game against Iowa will both be streamed live on HuskersNSide (subscription required). Sunday’s finale is scheduled to be shown nationwide on the Big Ten Network and will also be streamed on BTN2Go.

Heating Up
Ben Miller entered his senior season as a career .303 hitter, but entering last week’s game against Creighton he was hitting just .205 on the year. In his last six games coming into Friday Miller has gone 14-for-25 at the plate and raised his average 78 points to .283.

Against Maryland last weekend, Miller went 10-for-13 (.769) in the series with two doubles, four runs scored and three RBIs. The senior first baseman slugged .923 on the weekend and had an on-base percentage of .786.

Join the Club
Ben Miller was taken in the 32nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but turned down professional baseball to instead return to Nebraska for his senior season. The Clive, Iowa, native now has a chance to cement his name near the top of Nebraska’s all-time hits list.

Miller became the 25th player in school history to total 200 career hits on Saturday, April 8, with a 4-for-4 game against Maryland, his first career four-hit game. He followed it up the next day with a 4-for-5 performance in the series clincher.

Miller enters Friday with 206 hits, ranking him 23rd all-time at Nebraska. Over the past two seasons Miller has averaged 68.5 hits and with that average in 2017 he would end his career just outside of NU’s all-time top 10.

If Miller can match his 77 hits from last season, he would tie Michael Pritchard for fifth all-time at Nebraska with 251 hits.

The Huskers have had at least one player join the 200 hit club in each of the past five seasons, including 2016 second-round pick Ryan Boldt last year.

NU 200-Career Hit Club
1. 338 Matt Hopper 2000-03
2. 305 Jeff Leise 2000-03
3. 281 Will Bolt 1999-02
4. 261 Darin Erstad 1993-95
5. 251 Michael Pritchard 2011-14
6. 250 Paul Meyers 1984-86
7. 249 Joe Simokaitis 2002-05
8. 248 Jed Dalton 1992-95
9. 247 Chad Christensen 2010-13
10. 246 Darin Petersen 1992-95
11. 242 Mark Kister 1985-87
12. 240 Alex Gordon 2003-05
13. 238 DJ Belfonte 2007-10
14. 234 Todd Sears 1995-97
15. 231 Daniel Bruce 2002-05
16. 229 Ken Ramos 1987-89
17. 227 Jake Opitz 2005-08
18. 226 Austin Darby 2012-15
19. 223 Curtis Ledbetter 2003-05
223 Ryan Boldt 2014-2016
21. 222 John Cole 1999-01
22. 212 Pat Kelly 2012-14
23. 206 Ben Miller 2014-Present
24. 203 Ken Harvey 1997-99
25. 201 Francis Collins 1995-97

Get a Lead for the Bullpen
During Darin Erstad’s tenure at Nebraska, the Husker bullpen has done its job when it has a lead. Prior to ninth-inning walk-off loss last season at Rutgers on Friday, April 29, the Huskers had won 73 straight games when leading after the eighth inning. Since the loss at Rutgers, the Huskers have won 31 straight games when leading after eight innings.

Led by pitching coach Ted Silva, the Huskers are 155-17 since the start of the 2012 season when they lead after the sixth inning. The Huskers are 162-10 when leading after seven innings and are nearly perfect when leading after eight innings with a 173-5 record.

Angelo’s Arrival
After making a pair of starts last season as a true freshman, Angelo Altavilla has become a key contributor in 2017. The sophomore infielder is tied for the team lead with a .304 average, has a team-high nine doubles and ranks second on the team in RBIs with 21.

Altavilla has started 30 of NU’s 32 games, and has shown versatility in the field with 21 starts at shortstop, seven at third base and two at second base.

Double Digits
Nebraska has totaled 10 or more hits 14 times in 31 games entering Friday. Nebraska is 12-2 on the year when notching double-digit hits, the only losses came in a 7-5 defeat to Utah on Feb. 24 and a 8-6 loss at CSU Bakersfield on March 21.

The Huskers produced a season-high 19 hits against Creighton on Tuesday, April 4.

Last season the Huskers totaled 10 or more hits 27 times in 59 games and were 21-6 in those games.

Turn the Power On
Through the first 22 games of the year the Huskers hit just three home runs and didn’t have a multi-home run game. The power numbers are starting to climb though, as the Huskers head into their series against Iowa with seven home runs over the last 10 games and have produced two multi-home run games.

Last season the Huskers saw a spike in home runs with 43 on the year, which was more than the 41 they totaled in 2014 (19) and 2015 (22) combined.

Where the Huskers Stack up
Since playing its first Big Ten Conference baseball season in 2012, the Nebraska baseball team has annually been one of the top teams in the league. The Huskers have finished runner-up during the regular season three times, including last year, and are one of just three teams to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament in each of the past five seasons. The Huskers have qualified for every Big Ten Tournament since they joined the league and have been joined in the postseason each of the past five years by Ohio State and Indiana.

Leave it to Luensmann
Chad Luensmann had a tough task last season as a true freshman, he had to replace career saves holder Josh Roeder as NU’s closer. Luensmann went on to save 13 games in 14 chances, a NU freshman record, and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, becoming the first Husker baseball player to win the award.

Luensmann’s 13 saves tied Brett Jensen (2006) for third place in NU’s single-season record book and Luensmann ranked fourth nationally in saves. Among freshmen, Luensmann tied Long Beach State’s Chris Rivera for the most saves in the country.

Luensmann is tied with Luis Alvarado for the team lead in saves this season with five each. Luensmann enters Friday ranked third all time at Nebraska with 18 career saves. Luensmann needs 13 more saves to tie Jensen for second place on the all-time list.

Career Saves at Nebraska
1. 33 Josh Roeder 2012-15
2. 31 Brett Jensen 2004-06
3. 18 Chad Luensmann 2016-Present
4. 17 Thom Ott 2000-01
5. 14 Steve Boyd 1992-93
6. 13 Casey Hauptman 2008-11
7. 11 Dylan Vogt 2010-13
11 Dave Matranga 1990-91
11 Gary Nolting 1977-79
10. 10 Mike Bellows 1994

Huskers in MLB
A total of 12 former Huskers are part of a Major League organization, including five that are currently at the MLB level.

MLB
Cody Asche – White Sox
Brian Duensing – Cubs
Alex Gordon – Royals
Dan Jennings – White Sox
Tony Watson – Pirates

Minor Leagues
Ryan Boldt – Rays
Aaron Bummer – White Sox
Max Knutson – Orioles
Kyle Kubat – White Sox
Michael Mariot – Phillies
Steven Reveles – Red Sox
Josh Roeder – Yankees

Home Sweet Hawks
The Nebraska baseball program is celebrating its 16th year at Hawks Field.

Following NU’s win series win over Maryland the Huskers are 332-118-1 (.736) since opening the park on March 5, 2002 with a 23-1 win over Nebraska-Kearney.

Since Head Coach Darin Erstad took over in 2012, the Huskers are 103-40 (.720) at Hawks Field.

The Huskers have posted a winning home record in each of the last 15 seasons. Nebraska has won 60% or more of its home games 13 times over the past 15 seasons, including each of the past seven seasons.

NU’s worst home season at Hawks Field came in 2009, NU posted a 16-14 record (.533).

Seeing Double
Sophomore twin brothers Matt and Mike Waldron have played in the same game at Nebraska five times, including four times this season. Against Kansas State Tuesday, March 28, Matt started on the mound and Mike started at third base, it was the third time both brothers have been in the starting lineup of the same game.

Last year they played in the same game once. At Michigan State on May 8, Matt started against the Spartans and went 6.0 innings, while Mike was NU’s designated hitter, his first career start.

The last time the Huskers had a twin brothers on the team was 1994, when Glendale, Ariz., natives Jeff and John Strasser were freshmen. Jeff made 16 appearances on the mound, including nine starts, while John played the field in 25 games, including 12 starts.

Building up Hohensee
Junior Jake Hohensee missed the entire 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and made his Husker return on Feb. 26 against Utah, his first appearance on the mound in 653 days.

The Lincoln native entered the year with three career starts and had never gone more than 4.0 innings in an appearance. This year Hohensee has bettered that mark five times, including a 8.1-inning start against Maryland last Friday when he allowed just one hit over the first 8.0 innings of the game.

Hohensee will make his eighth start of the season on Friday and has a 4-2 record with a 2.16 ERA. Early in the season Hohensee ran into some bad luck. In his first three starts of the year teams scored at least two unearned runs in each start, including three unearned runs twice.

Hohensee has allowed one earned run or less in five of his seven starts this season.

Draft History
Six members of the 2017 Husker baseball team have previously been drafted:

Luis Alvarado – 2014 (Boston Red Sox, 33rd Round)
Derek Burkamper – 2013 (Boston Red Sox, 20th Round)
Sean Chandler – 2015 (Milwaukee Brewers, 32nd Round)
Chad Luensmann – 2015 (New York Mets, 39th Round)
Ben Miller – 2016 (Pittsburgh Pirates, 32nd Round)
Jesse Wilkening – 2015 (Arizona Diamondbacks, 28th Round)

Lean on the Lefty
Against Maryland last Sunday junior Jake Meyers picked up his fifth straight and is now 5-1 on the year with a 2.25 ERA. Over his last six starts Meyers is 5-0 and has gone 6.0 innings or more four times, including a 7.1, 8.0 and 9.0 inning effort

Meyers entered his start at Cal Poly on Saturday, March 19 with 21.2 straight shutout innings and extended the mark to 25.2 innings after he sat the Mustangs down in order in the fourth. The streak came to an end in the fifth when Scott Ogrin hit two-run home run after Bradlee Beesley started the frame with a double.

Meyers has been NU’s Sunday starter this year and the Huskers are 5-0-1 on Sundays in 2017.

Schedule the best
The Huskers have played a tough schedule so far in 2017.

With a 20-11-1 record though 32 games, only three of NU’s losses have come to a team with a losing record.

The Husker are scheduled to play 13 games against teams that participated in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, including a pair of games against teams that were in last season’s College World Series.

Nebraska has already played 2016 NCAA runner-up Arizona and CWS qualifier Oklahoma State at the Frisco College Baseball Classic in Frisco, Texas. Nebraska lost 1-0 to the Cowboys and shut out Arizona, 1-0.

So far this season the Huskers are 3-4 against teams that qualified for the 2016 NCAA Tournament, including wins over Western Carolina, Utah and Arizona.

Nebraska has three left against both Minnesota and Ohio State.

Games Against 2016 NCAA Tournament Teams
– 3 vs. Western Carolina
– 3 at Minnesota
– 3 at Ohio State
– 2 vs. Utah (Surprise Tournament)
– 1 vs. Oklahoma State (Frisco College Classic)
– 1 vs. Arizona (Frisco College Classic)

Offensive Mojo
Freshman Mojo Hagge made his Husker debut in the second game of the season against UC Riverside and went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored. Hagge has played in each of Nebraska’s last 29 games, including 28 starts.

The Omaha Skutt Catholic product started his career with a 21-game on-base streak, but it was snapped in the series opener at Indiana.

On the year, Hagge ranks third on the team with a .287 batting average and his six doubles rank fifth on the team.

NU’s leadoff hitter in 25 of the last 27 games entering Friday, Hagge has also show the ability to drive in runs, as he ranks fourth on the team with 16 RBIs.

The 5-7 left-handed hitting outfielder also carries a .381 on-base percentage and is tied with Jake Meyers for the team lead in walks with 17.

Husker open Big Ten Play on Right Note
Nebraska opened Big Ten play this season at Indiana and took the three-game series 2-0-1. The Huskers were in position to sweep on Sunday, but due to a travel curfew the two teams settled for a 1-1 tie after the 11th inning.

Nebraska’s series win at Indiana marked just the third time the Hoosiers have lost a conference series at home since they moved into Bart Kaufman Field in 2013. The Hoosiers have never been swept at home during Big Ten play at Bart Kaufman.

The Huskers are now 5-1 in Big Ten series openers since joining the league in 2012. The only time Nebraska didn’t open league play with a series victory was in 2014 when the Huskers lost 2-of-3 on the road at Iowa.

Nebraska’s Big Ten Opening Series
2012 – Illinois W, 2-1 (LWW)
2013 – at Illinois W, 2-1 (WLW)
2014 – at Iowa L, 1-2 (LWL)
2015 – Michigan W, 3-0 (WWW)
2016 – at Purdue W, 3-0 (WWW)
2017 – at Indiana W, 2-0-1 (WWT)

Get the First One on the Road
Since joining the Big Ten Conference for the 2012 season, Nebraska has played 21 league series on the road and has a record of 14-7. In 62 regular-season Big Ten road games, NU is 36-25-1.

The Huskers have won the opening game of a Big Ten road series 14 times and have won 12 straight series when they have taken the opener on the road.

The last time NU didn’t win the series after winning the opener was in 2012 at Indiana. Nebraska took game one 13-2, but then dropped a doubleheader the next day, 7-5 and 9-6.

In the seven road series when the Huskers have started with a loss, they have gone on to win the series just twice, including last season at Rutgers when NU dropped the opener and then took a doubleheader on Saturday. Prior to the comeback at Piscataway, the only other time NU had lost an opener on the road and then won the series was in 2012 at Ohio State. NU lost 10-2 on Friday and then swept a doubleheader on Sunday, 5-4 and 17-9.

Meyers Earns Preseason Honors
Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Nebraska junior left-handed pitcher and outfielder Jake Meyers was named a third-team preseason All-American by D1Baseball.com, Perfect Game and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).

One the most dynamic two-way players in college baseball a year ago, Meyers led the Husker offense with a .326 batting average and his 1.42 ERA was tops on NU’s pitching staff. The Omaha native is the first Husker to lead the team in both batting average and ERA dating back to at least 1967.

An early-season hand injury limited Meyers’ ability to pitch, but once he got on the mound he became a vital part of the weekend rotation. His 1.42 ERA was the second-lowest single-season ERA in school history by a pitcher who threw at least 40.0 innings, trailing only Bill McGuire’s school-record 1.29 ERA from 1984.

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