Four months to the day after playing the final home game of a 24-28 season, the Nebraska baseball team returned the Haymarket Park on Thursday to begin fall workouts in preparation for 2019.
"It feels like a clean slate," said pitcher Chad Luensmann, who is in the final stages of rehab after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing last season. "We've got a ton of new guys in, and we're going to see what this team is all about. We're going to try and make it different from last year, but today is Day 1."
Luensmann could be the poster boy for NU's 2018 struggles. On track to be the Huskers' Friday starter last season, the 6-foot-4, 237-pounder instead found himself watching from the dugout with several of his teammates as injuries decimated the pitching staff and set off a chain reaction of disappointment.
"I just want him to go day-by-day. He wants to get it now; he wants to be done now. And he’s just got to continue to take the steps toward his full health," Husker coach Darin Erstad said. "He’s just, he’s an animal. He gets after it. He’s in great shape, but he needs to continue to take the path."
The path for Nebraska will include integrating 11 freshmen and four transfers to a team that remains largely intact, minus the big bats of Scott Schreiber and Jesse Wilkening.
"We've got a bunch of ticked off guys on this team," Erstad said, "so they're highly motivated."
Erstad will get a quick look at his new pieces soon. The Huskers host Wichita State a week from Saturday in an exhibition game and will host Kansas on Oct. 6.
"You've gotta compete, and that's all it is in the fall, is competing," senior Angelo Altavilla said. "I know it's not about wins or losses in those games, but it'll be nice to hopefully win those games and just compete."
* The Huskers have added two Division I transfers with Nebraska ties.
Gibbon native Gareth Stroh, who turned himself into a solid weekend starter for Purdue over the past two seasons, will sit out this season after transferring from West Lafayette. Stroh, a left-hander, went 10-6 with a 4.34 ERA in 32 appearances over the past two seasons, and was a third-team all-Big Ten pick as a sophomore two seasons ago. He has one season of eligibility remaining.
Another pitcher, Grand Island native Trey Kissack, transferred into the program after spending last season at UNC-Greensboro.
Kissack, a righty, made six appearances last season, including three starts, as the Spartans won the Southern Conference regular-season title.
Like Stroh, Kissack must sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules, but still has two seasons of eligibility left.
"They’re going to have a year of being in our system and getting stronger and understanding what we’re doing, and looking ahead to the following year, you’re looking at two pretty experienced guys that you have to help with some of these younger guys," Erstad said. "So we’re excited about that."
* Two other Nebraska natives have transferred in, and are immediately eligible.
Outfield Aaron Palensky hit .417 with 18 homers and 77 RBIs last season for Southeast Community College after playing his high school ball at Papillion-La Vista South.
Ty Roseberry, a Kearney native, transferred from Nebraska-Kearney after the program was shut down at the end of 2018. Roseberry hit .332 last season and finished third in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association with 15 home runs.