Nebraska vs. Michigan, second game, 5.25

Nebraska's Robbie Palkert pitches in relief against Michigan Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Palkert played on Nebraska's last two teams to play in an NCAA regional.

Binghamton. That's the last baseball program Nebraska beat in the NCAA Tournament, back in 2014. The game was played in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as Oklahoma State hosted that regional.

Five years later, the Huskers head back to Oklahoma to play in the Oklahoma State regional. NU plays another team from the Northeast, though this time it's one with a deeper pedigree than that Binghamton squad.

But no matter the opponent and no matter Nebraska's lackluster postseason history over the last five seasons, Friday's game against UConn represents a chance for the current Huskers to continue down their own path.

Nebraska and the Huskies will meet at noon Friday at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.

"We have nothing to lose. I don’t think any team that goes into a tournament has anything to lose. I think everybody’s playing for their lives — everything is right in front of you," junior pitcher Robbie Palkert said before NU boarded a bus for OKC.

"We got a taste of what Omaha looks like in a championship setting with 17,000 people watching you (at the Big Ten Tournament). I still get chills. We’re all thirsty for that again. So, no, there’s nothing to lose. We’re just going out there to compete our butts off and leave it all in Oklahoma City."

Nebraska (31-22) has departed quickly in its last two regional appearances, going 0-2 in 2017 at Corvallis, Oregon, and 0-2 in 2016 at Clemson, South Carolina.

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In UConn (36-22), Nebraska will face a tough, disciplined program that played in a super-regional in 2011 and owns a big-time pitching staff led by starter Mason Feole and closer Jacob Wallace. Oklahoma State, the No. 9 overall national seed, lurks on the other side of the bracket, along with Harvard.

So, no, don't expect it to be easy for Nebraska to reverse recent history, even if a run to the Big Ten Tournament title game last week provided a shot of confidence.

"I just know our boys, like we did for the Big Ten Tournament, it doesn’t matter what the stats are. It’s a clean slate. That’s the beauty of postseason baseball. It doesn’t matter if you made the all-tournament team or you stunk in the Big Ten Tournament — it’s new life here," NU coach Darin Erstad said. "You’re 0-0 and your stat line is clean. So nobody cares. The baseball gods don’t care what you’ve done to this point, and that’s the beauty of postseason baseball."

Palkert and Angelo Altavilla played on Nebraska's last two NCAA regional teams, getting an up-close look at the disappointing end to a pair of seasons. That experience can help, both said, but it only goes so far.

"There’s a lot of hype surrounding it, and you just have to do what you can to stay within your team and not get so caught up in other teams' results and just stuff you can’t really control. You just have to stay within your team and only care about your guys, and I think you’ll be successful," Altavilla said.

"Yeah, the last two regionals that I’ve gone to haven’t really been successful, but you can learn from it and just teach the other guys what it’s about, and we’ll be successful this weekend."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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