No tweets. No jokes. No small talk.
Christian DeLeon is not a social animal on days he pitches.
“Pitching with an edge to yourself is a good thing,” the Nebraska senior right-hander said.
“I feel like you've got to pitch pissed off and bring your best stuff. You bring your best stuff and say, ‘Hey, batter. Try and hit this.’”
DeLeon wins more than he loses those battles.
He’ll try again at 6:35 p.m. Friday in the first game of a Big Ten series against Ohio State (18-10, 2-4) at Haymarket Park. The series continues Saturday at 2:05 p.m. and Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
“I’m a loudmouth most days, but I keep to myself on days I’m starting,” he said.
Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said he likes the angry attitude of his starters.
“I saw the quotes from (Aaron) Bummer and that’s great. Bummer, Christian, Kyle (Kubat), Chance (Sinclair) all have good fire. Flight or fight. And he got mad and fought. Kyle Kubat did the same thing against Wichita State last week. Yesterday (a 6-4 win at Arkansas), he battled.”
The formula seems to be working for DeLeon, too.
DeLeon is 2-2 with a 3.00 earned-run average. He has struck out 25, walked eight and allowed 47 hits in 48 innings this year. A year ago, he finished 7-4 with a 3.21 ERA and beat Ohio State twice.
“I’m sure I have a big target on my back this weekend,” he said. “It just happened that I pitched well both those days last year and it happened to be Ohio State both days.”
The series is important for both the Huskers (16-13, 1-2) and the Buckeyes.
“Because of Iowa (NU lost two of three in Iowa City) we didn't finish a couple of games and we have a chip on our shoulder and guys are hungry for the weekend. You’ve got to have that mentality.”
DeLeon has changed his approach to pitching this season.
“I’m with Coach Erstad that I set the tone early,” he said. “It is in the back of my mind now that I throw hard from the start and don’t hold back on my energy or my arm.”
For DeLeon, the Friday night start to the weekend is pivotal.
“It builds for the next guy if the Friday guy does well,” DeLeon said. “The next guy thinks ‘I want to be better than that.' Chance and Bummer will do the same thing I do -- compete. And it is key that I get a good outing for the weekend.
“Guys joke about, ‘Ooh, Mr. Friday night. But since I've got that spot, I want to stay there.”
* Husker third baseman Blake Headley is healed from an injury and started Wednesday against Arkansas. Pitcher Luke Bublitz is ready to go, “just waiting for the right time,” Erstad said.
* Ben Miller, a freshman designated hitter and pitcher, is batting .370 with a .500 slugging percentage. Erstad said, “He has very good hands for first base and we’re very confident he can play first. But we’re using him at DH and pitching right now."
* NU second baseman Pat Kelly said the split against Arkansas this week and with No. 12 Oregon State earlier this season “shows we can play with anybody. We've had our lulls. But we rebound well after a bad game. You just don’t get too down, take it like a man. It sucks a bit, but you can bounce back.”
* Erstad said he stays in touch with the former Huskers on major-league rosters. “And people say you can’t develop in cold weather,” Erstad remarked. He was impressed with the good starts by Andrew Brown, Cody Asche and others. Erstad said he texted Asche and said he was saving his hits for the real deal. “Asche had, like, three hits all spring and then has an opening day like that (three hits, four runs, four RBIs)." Asche is batting .500 through three games as the Phillies' starting third baseman.
* All veterans, active or retired, and military personnel will receive free admission to all three games this weekend. Active or retired veterans must present their government-issued military ID, VFW/Legion card, or DD214F form at the gates of Haymarket Park to receive free admission.