Former Oakland Raiders Owner Al Davis was well known for the phrase, “Just win, baby.”
Sounds a lot like what Husker baseball is producing this spring.
In winning the past seven series, all in-conference games to start the season, the Nebraska baseball team is gaining a reputation as a Big 10 squad of destiny that doesn’t care what it looks like.
The Huskers won two out of three from Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan, and it was no picnic against the Spartans, according to Nebraska Assistant Coach Lance Harvell, who is also the recruiting coordinator.
“We found a way to win in three really tough games,” said Harvell on Monday (April 26) at the Executive Club’s weekly luncheon meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn in the Haymarket District of downtown Lincoln. “You can tell the chemistry and camaraderie with this team. It shows up in certain spots.”
Sitting with a record of 18-6 by winning seven out of eight, including a sweep of Penn State prior to the weekend visit with the Spartans, the Huskers won the first game handily behind the strong pitching of Friday night left-handed starter Cade Povich (4-1) at 8-2. Saturday afternoon turned into disappointment for the Huskers as they made some uncharacteristic errors and lost 4-2.
And behold, on Sunday, the character of these 2021 Huskers was revealed. After they broke out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning, the Spartans rushed back to tie the game in the bottom of the third at 6-6. Then the bats went quiet and no one scored over the next eight innings, until the top of the 12th as Nebraska plated three to post a 9-6 win in 12 innings.
“Those kinds of games are important,” said Harvell, the third-base coach. “That’s where good teams show up. You start to see what everybody’s made of in a 12-inning game.”
Nebraska Head Coach Will Bolt was considered a tough guy while playing infield for the Huskers, leading them as a captain to two College World Series appearances under former head coach Dave Van Horn in 2001 and 2002. Harvell, who spent a few years coaching with Bolt down in the state of Texas, mentioned that sometimes the players do reflect the toughness of the coach. But he changed his comparison metaphors from Bolt’s baby over labor to winning despite the ugliness of the act.
“What’s all important is that as long as you land the plane, it doesn’t matter how you got there,” said Harvell, a native of Texas just like Bolt. “If you get the win, nobody cares how you got there.”
Speaking of which, the hot-hitting Husker bats did cool off over the past weekend’s sweep of Penn State. It was not something Harvell, the batting coach, overlooked.
“Things were going well for us at the plate. We had the No. 1 offense in the conference,” said the second-year assistant coach of the Huskers. “But baseball has its own way of making you humble, and we experienced some of that this past weekend.”
Harvell and the rest of the team don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves in leading the conference with a 20-7 record and landing some newly minted spots in the assorted college baseball rankings of Nos. 19, 22, 23 and 24 that just came out Monday.
“Things are going well right now, but with Rutgers coming into town we have to stay with it,” said Harvell about the upcoming weekend series against the Scarlet Knights, carrying a 14-13 record. “We’re sitting at the top. We know we’re gonna get everybody’s best shot.”
And when it comes to the post season, Harvell said he knows that what the team has accomplished up to this point isn’t going to matter unless they finish strong and get a shot and spot to possibly host or be in the NCAA tournament later this spring.
“They look at your body of work. That’s ultimately what they have to look at,” Harvell explained about Nebraska’s chances of being invited to the tournament. “We’re not going to back off of it.”
The author, Tim Brusnahan, is program chair for the Lincoln Executive Club and employed by Marco.