BSB: Belfonte, NU to Test UCLA Pitching Duo

By at March 5, 2010 | 9:01 AM | Print

Two blown saves vs. Fresno State and a delay for sun glare at Rice are likely what separates the 6-1 record Nebraska’s baseball team might have, and the 3-4 mark it actually does.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” head coach Mike Anderson said. “Maybe there were some moral victories, but, to be honest with you, our record’s 3-4 and moral victories don’t count.”

Anderson said he liked NU’s style of play – especially on defense – for a team who “still hasn’t been outside” to practice. But junior closer Mike Nesseth was twice unable to hold two-run leads at Fresno State. Nesseth, with his 18.00 earned-run average, still has the job, Anderson said, but the sooner the turnaround, the better.

“It’s your job,” Anderson said. “Go get it done. There are expectations…he didn’t get off to the start that he wanted to – now he has to go earn it.”

With that, bring on a three-game set against UCLA – “the hottest team in college baseball,” according to Anderson. A 4/8 p.m. doubleheader Friday is scheduled in case of rain in Pasadena on Saturday. The series will conclude on Saturday or Sunday depending on weather.

The 6-0 Bruins, ranked 14th, 16th and 19th by Collegiate Baseball, coaches and Baseball America respectively, boast one of the nation’s best pitching staffs with a 2.17 ERA, anchored by sophomore starters Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.

Cole (2-0) turned down the New York Yankees, who selected him in the first round of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft. Bauer, meanwhile, borders on a wunderkind: He skipped his senior year of high school baseball, pitched for UCLA as a 18-year-old, and promptly won National Freshman of the Year honors, in part by memorizing the delivery of San Francisco Giants’ star Tim Lincecum and incorporating it into his mechanics.

“Cole gets a lot of the recognition, but Bauer may be better,” Anderson said. “They both know how to pitch.”

Nebraska will counter with a rotation of sophomore Sean Yost, sophomore Michael Mariot and freshman Tom Lemke, who’s 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA, plus an offense that’s created plenty of scoring chances through two weekends. Leadoff hitter D.J. Belfonte has been a strong table-setter, with a .541 on-base percentage and a .467 batting average. Better, he’s struck out in only 2 of 30 at-bats this year.

“He’s pushing,” Anderson said. “He’s been very competitive. He’s showing a lot of these younger guys how to approach at-bats, how to go after it, how to stay aggressive when somebody’s changing their approach.”

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