LINCOLN — Scott Schreiber likes to joke that he’s close to aging out of college baseball. Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that the 22-year-old is serious on one point: It’s good to be playing at home.
Sleeping in his own bed is a refreshing start. So is a relaxed pregame meal at the Nebraska training table instead of eating on the go. Not missing class makes a difference. And performing in front of a supportive home crowd … well, it’s no coincidence the senior right fielder will again play “Awesome God” — a Christian worship song — for his walk-up music during games.
The Wisconsin native is even thankful for a weekend forecast with temperatures hovering in the high 40s and low 50s as the Huskers open a four-game series with Cal Poly (5-7) beginning at 1:35 p.m. Thursday.
“I just remember playing in 15-10 degree weather last year, so I figure we’ll be able to get (the games) in,” Schreiber said with a smile. “I’m not too worried about this. I think those guys out in California might be a little more worried about the cold weather. We’ll be fine.”
A nine-game homestand at Haymarket Park offers a break from the road. Nebraska (6-5) flew to Arizona twice for four-game series and bused four hours to Wichita State last weekend. Among the adventures were a burning car in an adjacent parking lot during one contest and a lighting outage that caused a half-hour delay in another.The Huskers arrived home late Sunday after beating the Shockers in extra innings.
“It’s fun playing in places like the spring training complexes of the Royals and Angels, but being at home just has a different feel, having your home crowd in front of you,” Nebraska junior reliever Zack Engelken said. “It’s a little bit colder here but it will be a lot more enjoyable.”
One small comfort: Some individualized music, which each player submitted to the athletic department last month. Engelken, for example, will stick with “Jungle” by Ex-Ambassadors on the audio system when he warms up on the mound. Senior Zac Repinski — coming off a strong weekend in Kansas, including a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning Sunday — is going “a little old school” with the 2008 hit “Live Your Life” (T.I. featuring Rihanna).
Freshman Jaxon Hallmark said he debated among six songs but settled on “Huncho Jack” by Travis Scott and Quavo as his tune. He’s already observed good-naturedly he might not be as superstitious as many of his bat-toting brethren.
“I feel like we make (walk-up songs) a big deal,” said Hallmark, who is hitting .270 in 10 games while playing all over the field. “It’s really not. I mean, I’ve never really been walking up to the plate and heard my walk-up song and gotten psyched out of my mind. When I’m walking up to the plate, I’m trying to focus on what I’m doing, and it’s just kind of background music.”
Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said all of the newcomers will have adjustments to make as they settle in for a stretch of 12 home games (and 14 overall) in 18 days. Pitchers not starting the 1:35 p.m. game Thursday, for example, can’t leave class until 12:30.
The Huskers also meet Northern Colorado (March 13-14) and Northwestern State (March 16-18) in their own confines before taking a two-game trip to Oral Roberts (March 20-21) and opening Big Ten play at home against Minnesota (March 23-25).
Still, the coach cautioned, playing in Lincoln is no cure for what the Huskers are working through. Injuries continue to hamper the bullpen, and the offense — ranked 199th nationally with 4.6 runs per game — is a unit in progress.
“This is going to be an up-and-down season,” Erstad said. “We’re going to take our lumps. There’s going to be some inexperience out there where maybe in years past we’ve locked it down in certain situations. We’re going to have some guys that probably have some growing pains. We’re just going to have to keep grinding and keep a level head through this whole thing.”
In other notes:
» Erstad had no update on the status of junior left-handed starter Jake McSteen, who departed with an elbow injury two weeks ago. The elbow ligament remains intact, the coach said last week, and leaves open the possibility for a late-season return if the southpaw opts for rehab over surgery.
“We’ll just kind of keep seeing how it goes,” Erstad said Wednesday, “but I think he’s probably leaning toward just seeing how this goes maybe a little bit and not make any decisions right now.”
» On Reece Eddins, who missed most of last year after Tommy John surgery, Erstad said during a Husker Sports Network interview, “No doubt he’s making progress.” He said he expects to have to the junior righty back in the next couple of months.
» Senior right-hander Jake Hohensee won’t be used in other high-leverage bullpen situations outside his closer role at this time. “I would say probably right now that’s not an option,” Erstad said.
» Repinski said his hot start at the plate could be a sign of good things to come for the team overall. “I felt really confident at the plate,” he said. “I felt like I could have done anything, hit anything out there in my way. I feel like a lot of guys are starting to feel that sense right here. Hopefully this will be a jump start for us.”
» On Cal Poly, Erstad said the team is like Nebraska in that pitching could be an adventure across a condensed series.
”They’re probably still trying to find some pieces on the mound,” Erstad said. “… Four games in three days, I think they’re probably in the same boat that we are, trying to figure it out. With TBA in the last game with them, it’s kind of where it’s at. But I know they have some very talented players. We have to make sure we keep the leadoff guy off base and they’ve got some guys in the middle of their order that can hurt you.”
Cal Poly at Nebraska
When: 1 p.m. Thursday
Where: Haymarket Park
Radio: KNCY 1600 AM, 105.5 FM
All four games between Cal Poly and Nebraska will air on KNCY 1600 AM, 105.5 FM