Kyle Peterson has been an on-air college baseball analyst at ESPN for 17 years. A native of Elkhorn who pitched at Stanford -- and was a first-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers -- Peterson shared several thoughts about Nebraska baseball this week in the wake of Darin Erstad's sudden retirement Monday as head coach. Here are a few highlights that I didn't use in a Wednesday column about Will Bolt.
Question: You told me back in 2016 that it's not fair to expect Nebraska to reach the NCAA Tournament every season. I agree with that. So, what sort of expectations are reasonable for the Husker program?
Kyle Peterson: I think if you're in the postseason three out of every five years, that's realistic. If you can find your way into a Super Regional once every five to seven years, that feels about right, in my opinion.
(Note: Nebraska last reached a Super Regional in 2005).
Q: Some folks might say those expectations feel somewhat limited. What would you tell those folks?
Peterson: I would say it's a lot harder place to win at a high level in that sport than people realize. There were significantly more advantages for them from a baseball standpoint when they were in the Big 12. You could go recruit the Texas kids because they were going to get to play at home a few times. The Big 12 is going to help you out from an RPI standpoint -- not significantly more than the Big Ten, though. The Big Ten has proven it's a good league. But it's not the Big 12 from a depth standpoint. It's not the Big 12 from a top of the line teams that have a chance to go to the CWS standpoint.
It's just a little bit harder to consistently get to the postseason because of what you do within the league. Everybody just remembers when they went to Omaha three times. They were in a different league. It was a very different setting than it is right now.
(Interlude: A few former Huskers from Texas come to mind: Justin Seely of Nacogdoches, Jed Morris of Seabrook, Will Bolt of Conroe and Andrew Brown of Carrollton).
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Q: Nebraska hasn't had a first-team All-America player since Alex Gordon in 2004 and 2005. Right up to that point, the Huskers were churning out All-Americans fairly regularly: Ken Harvey in 1999, Shane Komine in 2000 and 2001, Dan Johnson in 2001, John Cole in 2001, Matt Hopper in 2001, Jeff Leise in 2002, and Jed Morris in 2002. Can the Huskers still recruit All-American-caliber players on a consistent basis?
Peterson: I don't know if you can get as many as you could when you were in the Big 12. I mean, I think it's a little bit tougher. But you can still do it, without a doubt. You have facilities, it's a big-time conference ... I know it's not the SEC or the ACC from a baseball standpoint ... but it's a Power Five conference and one of the best conferences in the country.
It's an incredible university. There's some baseball history. Now, are you going to go toe-to-toe with Arkansas and get a kid? I don't know. That's hard. It would appear to me they've lost a fair amount of those.
(Interlude II: Nebraska had just one player, senior pitcher Matt Waldron, selected Wednesday in the Major League Baseball Draft. The following are Division I schools that had the most players picked: 1. Vanderbilt, 13; 2. UCLA, 12; 3. Mississippi State, 11; 4. (tie) UCSB and Indiana, 10; 6. (tie) UNC, Stanford and TCU, 9).
I think in many cases, if you're talking about a top, top, top-line guy and he has an opportunity to go to Arkansas or LSU or A&M, it's going to be tough for Nebraska. You can win some of those battles, sure. Are you going to win more than 50 percent of the time? I don't know ...
Q: We agree Will Bolt is an excellent candidate for the Nebraska job. You outlined your reasons earlier this week. But the makeup of the staff is critical in the discussion, which basically goes without saying, right?
Peterson: It's the recruiting game, is what it is. It's, can you go get two assistants who've been on the recruiting trail, really know the recruiting trail and can tailor it to Nebraska? That's the whole game. If you don't have the dudes, you're not going to win.