The Huskers’ baseball program trended in the wrong direction in 2018. Righting the ship needs to start with improved defense and better pitching depth, says Greg Sharpe.
The “Voice of the Huskers” shared his analysis with the Lincoln Sunrise Optimist Club during a recent speaking engagement. Sharpe said the pitching depth, thinned by a rash of injuries that contributed to the disappointment of the 2018 season, needs to be fortified.
Sharpe suggests that the coaches may need to alter their approach to off-season strengthening and conditioning. Pitch selection is often associated with injuries, but the broadcast voice of NU athletics said he questions whether that contributed to the injury bugaboo.
“I don’t think it’s a question of overuse (of arms),” said Sharpe. “We threw a lot of change-ups, and that’s supposed to be easy on your arm.”
Asked whether the 24-28 season and 8-14 Big Ten Conference record might leave coaching jobs in jeopardy, Sharpe said head coach Darin Erstad’s job is safe but that assistant coaches may be under intense scrutiny. Looking back, “Will Bolt’s leaving hurt a lot,” Sharpe said of the former Husker assistant who just completed the fourth season of his second stint at Texas A&M.
In addition to the pitching problems, Sharpe pointed to a porous team defense, “especially in the infield.”
On the flip side, Husker baseball continues to produce its number of pros. As an example, Sharpe pointed to former Husker hurler Kyle Kubat, an Omaha pitcher who was promoted by the Chicago White Sox to its Triple-A affiliate at Charlotte earlier this season.
On the football ledger, Sharpe had plenty to say, of course – most of it, good – about the future of the Huskers. Scott Frost and his new staff inherited a program that lacked conditioning and recruited poorly, he noted.
“There are too many holes to expect an immediate conference championship,” Sharpe assessed. “I’m afraid our defense is going to be exposed, especially on the corners, and the schedule, as everyone knows, will be extremely difficult. They’re nervous about the defense holding up through twelve games.”
Sharpe said the problem was exacerbated by the time lapse between the Mike Riley firing and the arrival of Frost and his staff. “Hardly anything productive happened in the six weeks between the Iowa game and the hiring.”
Looking down the road, Sharpe likes what he sees, and that starts at the very top. “From the top administration on down, everyone is pulling in the same direction, and that’s something I haven’t seen in the last decade.”
Sharpe likes what he’s seen of next year’s offense and the spirited competition at quarterback.
What would the fan base consider a successful season in 2018? “I think a season that ends with a bowl bid will be considered a successful season," Sharpe said. "You’re not going to turn around a 4-8 season overnight.”