Our Quest To See Every Husker In Action
Heading into our last Challenge event, the 22nd of the 22 teams/sports that were on our list, I was feeling an undeniable sense of accomplishment. Balancing the sports calendar with my work schedule, Jessica’s school schedule & our personal lives, was no small feat. I’ll get more into this in our final post, but that’s what I was thinking about as we entered Haymarket Park to see the Huskers take on Penn State.
Another thing that struck me as we walked in, was how good we, as Cornhuskers, have it. Haymarket Park is as good as it gets in college baseball. Just beyond centerfield of course is Memorial Stadium. And now, down the first base line, we have the Pinnacle Bank Arena. From facilities to fans, Cornhusker athletes really want for nothing. And that’s pretty special.
As we settled into our seats it became very obvious early on that the Nittany Lions weren’t going to throw up much of a challenge. Pitcher Chance Sinclair sent Penn State’s first nine hitters back to the dugout in a very efficient start. In the bottom of the third Nebraska’s bats gave the Big Red a lead they would never relinquish.
It was at this point the night took an odd, but not unexpected, turn. My coworker Lance Schwartz showed up with his always present camera. After learning about the Challenge, Lance said he wanted to do one of his Journal pieces on Jess & I. So he miced us up and began shooting. It’s pretty easy to feel a little self conscious about the process. I joked that this must be what it feels like to be on MTV’s ‘The Real World’. That lasted for a couple innings, then it was back to the game.
In the seventh inning the Huskers really poured it on. Led by Jake Placzek and Michael Pritchard, Nebraska put five runs on the board. In the eighth, Blake Headley put and exclamation point on the contest with a solo shot beyond the centerfield fence. Final score, 13-3.
With that, the Bugeater Challenge came to an end. We’re planning one last entry to the blog that will provide some reflections on what the adventure has meant to Jessica & myself. But I’ll wrap this up by saying that our mission was a lot more fun, and educational, than I could have ever predicted. My only regret, we don’t have another 22 sports to cover. That notwithstanding, it’s good to be a Husker.
Friday night’s baseball game was the final event of the Bugeater Challenge. That feels weird to write.
The night started out pretty normal, Dad picked me up and we walked from the ballpark to the Railyard to get some dinner, then walked back for the game.
Before the game started we walked around, scoping out good places to take pictures later on and just hanging out before all the action got started. About ten minutes before the first pitch we made our way to our seats and settled in for some Husker baseball against Penn State. I may not know everything there is to know about baseball, but over the years it has become my second favorite sport. I absolutely love the feeling of sitting outside on a gorgeous night and hearing the crack of the ball hitting the bat, for me there was no better game to end this wild ride.
Three innings in we met up with one of dads coworkers. Lance Schwartz.. He was shooting some video and some interview questions for the piece that he is doing on the Bugeater Challenge (we’ll post the link as soon as it airs). So in between keeping our eyes on the field we were walking around being followed by Lance and his camera. It felt very awkward, but it was cool. We finally stopped on the grass in the outfield to answer some questions and watch the game. After Lance got what he needed for the night we made our way around the park, taking pictures and talking about the game. We made our way back up to our seats to watch the last 3 innings. Man was I glad we got back to our seats when we did, because that’s when things started to get nuts.
In the bottom of the 7th the Huskers had five runs, bringing the score to 11-3. The 8th inning was just as exciting with Blake Headley leading things off with a home run, followed by another pair of runs to make the final score for the night 13-3.
While watching these last impressive innings dad and I began to talk a little more about our “Bugeater Challenge” record, we came to the conclusion that of all the events we have been to, we have only seen 3 teams lose. So ending the challenge with a baseball win was a big plus in our book.
It’s crazy to think that this is the last blog I will write about a specific sporting event for the challenge. When we started this I thought that writing one post for each event was going to be daunting and that I was going to have to carve some major time in my schedule. While that was partially true, I have had so much fun doing this that I don’t even care how much time it took. I’m actually really sad that the challenge is over, but in no way does this mean we are done supporting every Husker we possibly can. Doing this challenge has made me remember what being a Husker is. Being a Husker is being a part of something bigger than yourself. Being surrounded by more than 60,000 strangers who would probably do anything for you in a heartbeat if you needed it. To be sure, I will continue to support all Husker athletes whenever possible and I encourage you to do the same. I think I t means more to them than you might think :)
Before Friday night I probably hadn’t been to a softball game since I was kid, and my parents decided that softball wasn’t the sport for me (Dad came to one of my games and as I was in the outfield dancing around catching butterflies, he was less than thrilled to say the least).
I had never been to Bowlin Stadium and knew very little about what to expect walking in. As soon as you enter there are two concession stands, then you go to the left, or right, to you find your seats. There are quite a few sections of seating, obviously smaller than the baseball field, but perfect for the crowd on-hand and where we were. The seats were quite comfortable and as Dad had gotten us tickets right behind home plate, we could see everything.
As the game started I realized that one of the players, Alicia Armstrong, #21, is actually in my stats class. I knew she was on one of the school’s athletic teams because they all have the same backpacks, but didn’t know which one until Friday night. So that was a cool way to start the game.
The Huskers were playing Ohio State, the first of a three game series that they would finish out on Saturday with a double header. Of course we don’t like Ohio State. My family is actually a bit divided, because a lot of my dad’s side is from Ohio. Anyway we were still rooting for the Huskers to kick some Suckeye butt.
Ohio State started the game with a run in the top of the first. But as soon as the Huskers stepped up to the plate, there would be no question as to the game’s ending. They scored 3 runs in the inning. The game progressed pretty quickly as the Huskers got into their grove. Ohio State switched pitchers a couple times and failed to score another run. The Huskers ended the fourth inning with 8 runs giving Nebraska 14 on the night. After the top of the 5th it was over, the Buckeyes had only one run, and as the NCAA mercy rule states, if the team is up by 8 by the end of the 5th,the game is over.
I knew the baseball mercy rule (up by 10 at the bottom of the 7th) and thought it applied to softball as well (see how well I paid attention at softball practice?) and had misinformed some other fans behind us. Naturally Dad had me correct myself and we went on with the game.
It was crazy to see how different softball is from baseball; I kept noticing little things and would ask dad questions. That’s one of the best things about the Challenge, I’m learning so much. I’m actually really sad that we only have one more left.
Until next time Bugeaters!
Walking up to Bowlin Stadium for the penultimate event in our Bugeater Challenge, it struck me how well Husker fans turnout for the majority of the school’s women’s teams. This would primarily be “the big three”. Volleyball, basketball & of course softball. But there is a loyal following for soccer, gymnastics and swimming as well.
The passion and dedication, of the fans, is second to none. For me, that’s pretty cool. While nothing will ever match the intensity of Nebraska football fans, I think it sends a great message to young women considering enrolling at UNL, whether they’re an athlete or not, this is a community that will support them.
Nowhere is that as evident as it is in the stadium these ladies call home. Bowlin, right next door to Hawks Field, is a great venue. Comfortable seats with great sight lines and a fantastic atmosphere. It’s all any student/athlete, or fan, could ask for.
Ok, onto the game! The 19th ranked Nebraska softball team was hosting the, as I jokingly tweeted, godless Buckeyes from Ohio State. Anytime one of the Big Ten’s marque schools comes to town, it’s a cool deal. It also makes wining that much more important.
As it happened, OSU struck first. But that didn’t phase the Huskers. In the bottom of the first Alicia Armstrong got the scoring started with an RBI single that even the score. After that the Huskers scored in every inning, highlighted by an 8 run 4th inning. The marque moment being All-American Tatum Edwards’ home run to center that gave Nebraska a 14-1 lead.
On the mound Edwards was equally as impressive. Allowing just three hits in five innings of work. About the only mercy the Buckeyes got on the evening came from the five inning/8 run rule. The win was NU’s sixth straight Big Ten victory, its longest conference winning streak since 2006. They would extend that to eight after sweeping a double header on Saturday.
It remains to be seen if this year’s squad can equal, or better, last year’s College World Series qualifier. But for one night, and one weekend, they were about as dominant as a team could be. And that was a lot of fun to watch.
As we sat there enjoying the action, Jess & I started to reflect a bit on our quest. We set out to see 22 of Nebraska’s 24 NCAA level teams (sorry men’s golf & women’s sand volleyball (no home dates)), and now there is just one left. A last dance with Darin Erstad & the baseball team.
Track & Field. It’s something that most probably only think about every four years when the Olympics roll around. However, for the men & woman that compete in these sports, it’s a year-round endeavor. That of course applies to the Huskers as well. After they put the wraps on their indoor season, they moved to the great outdoors.
So it was with a lot of excitement that Jess and I headed to Nebraska’s Ed Weir Stadium for the Nebraska Quad. The Huskers were hosting The Jack Rabbits (love that mascot) of South Dakota State University, Northern Colorado and Oral Roberts University. It was as beautiful a day as you could ask for. Sun, a light breeze and temperatures in the low 80s.
Unlike the meet we attended earlier, the pace of the outdoor meet was much less frenetic. The events were spread out over several hours rather than seemingly all at once during the indoor meet. In fact, we actually sandwiched our time at the track around the Huskers Red/White spring game.
First up, the women’s long jump. There was what appeared to be a fleet of Husker jumpers on hand. The best of which was Nebraska freshman Tierra Williams who went a little longer than 20 feet. She was followed on the podium by Jazmin McCoy (3rd), Mollie Gribbin (4th) and Kari Heck. After that we headed to the stadium for some spring football.
We returned to the track a couple hours later intent on seeing some of the running events. Chief among those, the men’s 200 meter. Mostly because a friend of Jessica’s was running. Levi Gipson, a sophomore standout who earned All-Big Ten & All-American honors as a freshman. The guy is crazy fast. He’s also a Lincoln kid, having starred in just about every sport Lincoln Christian High School competes in.
Fortunately for us, and the Huskers, he didn’t disappoint. Finishing second to teammate Ricco Hall, and just ahead of fellow Huskers Dexter McKenzie & Zach Birkel. That’s on top of a third place finish in his specialty, the 400 meter, earlier in the day.
All in all it was a great event. It also brings us that much closer to completing our challenge. 18 events down, two to go.