NU baseball practice, 1.25

Nebraska's Spencer Schwellenbach fields the ball during practice Jan. 25 at the Hawks Championship Center.

It's safe to say the Oregon State baseball team made a lasting impression on Spencer Schwellenbach.

The seventh-ranked Beavers, the reigning national champions, swept a four-game series from the Huskers last weekend in Surprise, Arizona.

"It was definitely different from UC Riverside," said Schwellenbach, Nebraska's standout freshman infielder, referring to the Huskers' 3-1 series win in Riverside, California, to open the season. "I mean, it was something I've never seen before, watching a team like Oregon State take care of the ball the way it did and throw strikes."

Oregon State (8-0) outscored Nebraska 38-9, but Schwellenbach says the Huskers pushed the Beavers in two of the games.

"Even though the scores didn't really look like we were close, I thought we definitely had a chance to win some of those games," he said. "Just knowing that, and knowing we can put up a fight against the best team in the country, we know that we can beat anybody."

Nebraska coach Darin Erstad hopes his youthful team takes that sort of mindset into this weekend's Frisco (Texas) College Baseball Classic. The Huskers (3-5) open play in the event against No. 3 Texas Tech (6-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.  

The Red Raiders have averaged more than 10 runs per game during their six-game winning streak, which includes two wins over Oregon, a sweep of Kentucky and a midweek win against New Mexico State.

Nebraska is scheduled to play Sam Houston State (5-2) at noon Saturday before wrapping up round-robin play at 11 a.m. Sunday against No. 12 Mississippi State (8-1).

Erstad wants to see a bit more fight from his team this weekend than he saw last weekend.

"I didn't see enough communication on the field," he said. "In the dugout, it just seemed like it was a little more quiet. I believe these guys are fighters. I really do. I've said that. But right now we're convenient fighters. Sometimes you're going to have to go toe-to-toe with someone who's bigger and badder than you are, and you've got to be able to go get him. We haven't gotten to that point, yet.

"I'm confident we will. But (playing Oregon State) was a good lesson for our guys. It really showed that when you make little mistakes -- free passes, errors -- against a quality opponent, they'll make you pay."

Nebraska committed seven errors in the series while Oregon State made two. Schwellenbach, who's hitting .297 on the season with 11 hits (all singles) in 37 at-bats, occupied the leadoff spot in the order in all four games. He played first base in two games and third base in the other two.

He envisions the Huskers making progress as they get more opportunities to play outside. They haven't practiced outside this season because of cold and snow.

"You just take it step by step," he said. "As we get going through the season, we'll start to get more reps on the field and start to become more of a team like (Oregon State), hopefully. That's our goal, to be able to take care of the ball like they do."

A 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Saginaw, Michigan, Schwellenbach was selected in the 34th round of the 2018 major league draft by the Cleveland Indians, but turned down professional baseball to play at Nebraska. He headlines a 2018 recruiting class that's widely regarded as the Big Ten's best.

He admits he was nervous last weekend.

"I was definitely more nervous than against UC Riverside," he said. "Coach tells us, 'Don't worry about the other team's jersey.' But it's obviously different playing the national champions. I wasn't as nervous when the game started. But before the game, looking over at them, it was kind of intimidating. As much as I don't want to say that, it's obviously true. I know everyone else was feeling it.

"It'll get better as we go on because there's a lot of young guys starting."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


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