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Looking back while looking forward

Courtesy: Huskers.com

As the MLB draft pushes into full swing and Nebraska’s latest season begins to fade into the rear-view mirror with the College World Series ramping up in Omaha, there appear to be two narratives emerging from Husker baseball fans as they look back on the 2017 season.

One one hand, there are those who tout head coach Darin Erstad’s first Big Ten regular season championship title and 2017 Big Ten Coach of the Year award as reasons the Huskers ship is pointing in the right direction.

Nebraska (35-22-1) needed a little help down the stretch from the rest of the Big Ten to secure a regular season title. However, they also took care of what was within their control and won a three-game series against Penn State during the last weekend of conference play two games to one. Doing so gave Nebraska baseball its first conference title since 2005 and snapped a 12-year title drought.

On the other hand, some longtime Husker baseball fans believe that Nebraska should continually be performing at a much higher level especially after moving into the Big Ten. They point to the dominant teams of the past that were regularly winning 40-plus games per season and making deep postseason runs in a more dominant Big 12 conference.

 

Year Overall Record Conference Record Conference Title End of Postseason
2012 35–23 14–10 None No appearance
2013 29–30 15–9 None No appearance
2014 41–21 18–6 None Regionals (1-2)
2015 34–23 9–14 None No appearance
2016 37–22 16–8 None Regionals (0-2)
2017 35–22–1 16–7–1 Regular Season Regionals (0-2)
Total 211-141-1 (.597) 88-54-1 (.619) 1-7 (.142)


What the Big Ten is missing is a powerful team or two to help raise the stock of its national standing and the Huskers are in a prime position to step up into that role. 

Indiana briefly led the way in 2013 and 2014 with their pitching dominance but since then no teams have stepped up to the plate. For the Huskers to become the conference’s flagship team they will need to find a pitching ace for Friday nights and keep their offense rolling at the beginning and end of the year.

The truth is that the Big Ten is a weaker conference than most out there and some fans think the Huskers should be able to achieve much more as a result. To note the strength of the Big Ten as a conference Warren Nolan’s conference RPI ranked the Big Ten at 7th this year while D1 Baseball ranked the conference 7th in their RPI rankings the year before.

As players begin focusing on summer leagues and setting up their 2018 season, fans need to ask themselves what should be reasonable expectations for their team moving forward and then hold the Huskers to them. Are Big Red fans satisfied with winning the Big Ten during an average year or are they wanting more? 

The good news is that regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, the Huskers are primed for another year of promise in 2018. The Huskers lose only a few major contributors to graduation from the 2017 squad and will have one of the deepest bullpens in the conference as long as everyone comes back healthy. The only loss for the Huskers in the MLB draft thus far was talented Husker recruit, RHP John Swanda who was taken in the 4th round of the MLB draft by Erstad’s former team, the Los Angeles Angels, yesterday. Without any other big surprises the early rounds of the draft there’s a good chance the 2018 team will stay largely intact as we move into the remainder of the MLB draft.

Where do you fall as a fan? Do you feel like the Huskers underachieved in 2018 or did Erstad being home the bacon with a Big Ten championship?

Let us know in the comments below!

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