The Nebraska baseball team's season didn't end with a postseason birth, but their long run in the Big Ten tourney should be a stepping stone for better things to come.
“It's big to be in a game that means something,” said Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad on the Huskers Sports Network following the loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Championship game. “When you are playing a quality team, you can't have any slip ups what so ever. When you get those on the other side, we have to take advantage of them.”
In today's look into the 2014 season, we examine a list of sophomores from the 2013 season who will all be back (juniors are draft eligible), who should have a major impact on team's chances for a tournament bid.
Kyle Kubat – junior pitcher in 2014
The sophomore left-hander from Waterloo, who missed much of the season due to shoulder soreness, returned to start eight games down the stretch, going 5-0 with an ERA of 1.81 – in the process becoming the team's ace over the last few weeks of the season. Kubat will start his junior year with a 10-1 career record and an ERA below 2.50. He should be Nebraska's No. 1 pitcher heading into the 2014.
Pat Kelly – junior infielder in 2014
A Minnesota native, Kelly's earned Baseball American Freshman All-American honors in 2012 – his 2013 campaign could be argued was even better. Kelly saw a small decline in his power, seeing his slugging and home run totals fall from the previous year, but his batting average climbed in 59 starts. His .331 average and .367 on-base percentage should make him one of the top returning infielders in the Big Ten in 2014.
Austin Darby –junior outfielder in 2014
Darby's numbers slightly dropped from 2012 to 2013, but call it a sophomore slump. The Montana native still batted .292 and had 33 runs batted in (tied for third on the team). He also showed he can be super consistent – recording a 15-game hitting streak. Darby's season didn't end the way he would have probably liked when he was ejected from the game against Indiana in the Big Ten Championship game for slamming his helmet. Expect him to use that moment as fuel this offseason to start hot in 2014.
Aaron Bummer – junior outfielder in 2014
A New York Yankees draft pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Bummer was a workhorse for the Huskers, throwing the second most innings on the staff, making eight starts and 16 appearances. The Arizona product went 3-1 on the season with a 2.50 ERA. During his last three regular season starts, Bummer went 2-1, giving up seven hits in 14 innings of work.
Josh Roeder –junior relief pitcher in 2014
The junior college transfer was very good in his first season with Nebraska, making 21 appearances with an ERA of 1.74. He did finish the year 0-3, but picked up six saves in 31 total innings. Opposing batters only batted .209 off him – the second lowest batting average behind Kubat. Nebraska's top closer Dylan Vogt (eight saves) will graduate this season, making Roeder a candidate to take the ball at the end of the game.
Tanner Lubach– junior catcher in 2014
The Lincoln Southwest product only batted .239 on the season and should see major competition from junior college transfer Ryan Miller if he ever makes it to Lincoln, but Lubach really grew into his role as starting catcher for Nebraska in 2013. In 49 appearances and 46 starts, Lubach recorded 27 runs batted in. He also towards the end of the season became a defensive strength for Nebraska behind the plate. Opponents went 45-for-75 on the season in the stolen base department.
Blake Headley– junior infeilder in 2014
The Nebraska native batted .284 in his second season with the program, starting 43 contests at third base. After playing in 25 games as a freshman, Headley could be right on track to breakout as one of the best infielders in the Big Ten.
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