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Chalk Talk: Previewing Nebraska Baseball with Corn Nation

Ahead of Sunday's matchup with the Cornhuskers, I spoke with Keith Yaple of Corn Nation to get the scoop on this Nebraska team and how baseball life has been in the B1G.

PodKATT: The Cornhuskers were highly regarded in the preseason thanks mostly to a lot of good returning experience on the roster, especially in the pitching staff with Chance Sinclair (9-1, 2.15 in 2014) and closer Josh Roeder (12 saves in 2014). Who do you think we’re likely to see on Sunday and who are some name on the staff LSU fans should watch for?

Keith Yaple: On Sunday, it looks like the Huskers will trot out Derek Burkamper for his third start of the year. Burkamper came in last year as a highly regarded prospect, and looks to finally have found a comfort zone. Burkamper isn't flashy but has figured out how to maximize his effectiveness with a nasty curveball in addition to a solid changeup. His velocity will not impress, but he is more of a crafty pitcher than a power pitcher.

On the offensive side of things, everyone knows about Blake Headley and Ryan Boldt. The key to making the Husker offense click is to set the table for the middle of the lineup. Look for Jake Schleppenbach, Luis Alvarado, and Steven Reveles to try and set the table for the meat of the order. Tanner Lubach has plus power and tends to come up with important hits for Nebraska.

PK: Nebraska’s start has been a little rocky, with an opening series loss at UNLV followed by a nice bounce back to take series at BYU and at Loyola Marymount. That kind of scheduling is both an RPI boon and likely required given how bad the weather has been nationwide early in the season. Do you like that kind of scheduling and where do you see the Huskers once B1G play starts in late March?

KY: The schedule this year is not necessarily a boon, as the Huskers played a weak Brigham Young team. Loyola Marymount and UNLV both have potential to make the tournament. When you play in a climate such as Nebraska, you have to make the schedule somewhat difficult but not too difficult. I have no problem with west coast trips, as there are no weather issues usually in the desert or California. I was not a fan of the Brigham Young series, but you schedule what you can get, and there were worse teams to face.

When the Huskers start BIG play, they will have played some cupcake games, but also some quality teams like Indiana State, Florida Gulf Coast, and LMU. The Huskers also have huge non conference games against Texas and Fullerton, so I expect the Huskers to be well tested. The Huskers should compete for the BIG title, and a weekend series at Maryland will likely tell who will win the conference.

PK: With 301 teams in college baseball, it’s hard to pay close attention outside of your own conference. What kind of offensive team is Nebraska and how does Ryan Boldt (.459 with 10 runs) and Blake Headley (.351 with 13 RBIs) fit into those plans?

KY: Nebraska offense in one word, streaky. The Huskers can pound out a boatload of hits in a span of three innings, and then they can go quiet the next six innings. The consistency of the Huskers bats is a problem, and coach Darin Erstad will look for a more consistent approach at the plate. If both Austin Darby and Tanner Lubach could consistently hit, this becomes a much more deep and dangerous Husker team. Darby has the ability to put a lot of hits together in a short span of time.

PK: Bottom 9, Two out, down 1, 1 on. Who do you want to come to the plate for Nebraska?

KY: Runner on third or runner on first? If the runner is on third, I would say Blake Headley as he has been the Huskers best hitter in the ninth inning. If the Huskers were to need a long ball, it would be on Lubach. Lubach has the power to drive the ball to all fields, and is a patient and methodical hitter. I ignored putting Boldt here because hell, who would pitch to him.

PK: It’s been a few seasons now, how is Nebraska baseball adjusting to life in the B1G?

KY: The first year Nebraska joined the BIG was a disappointment. Erstad has been spent a lot of time building the Huskers into a team that is methodical and puts in hard work. The Huskers continue to gain steam, and build momentum with the program, even if they have lost a few top recruits to the draft. I don't know if you saw the BIG championship last year, where 20,000 showed up to support the Huskers, but they are gaining more local attention, and national attention. A reasonable goal for the Huskers this year was to host a regional, or win the BIG. While the level of competition may not be where it is in the Big 12, the BIG is improving as a conference, and is more committed to baseball. Nebraska seemingly leads this commitment, and will always look to compete for a league title.