(Photo – Kenny Larabee)
Whenever Iowa and Nebraska play each other in any sport, it’s a given that fans, columnists, and sports radio hosts alike will offer up their takes on whether or not the two border schools are actually rivals.
However, for NU head coach Darin Erstad, it’s not a relevant question. It wasn’t important to him as a player, either. “To be completely honest with you, I hated everybody so it didn’t really matter,” Erstad told reporters Thursday afternoon before the team bus departed for Iowa City. “I don’t play favorites.”
For Erstad, he wants his teams ready to play no matter the circumstances. Erstad will often repeat his mantra, “everyday is Wednesday” whenever asked about circumstances surrounding a significant game. No matter the opponent, Erstad and his squad will take the same approach no matter what.
“If we have to look for reasons to get up for a game, we’ve got problems,” he said. “If that’s the case and I can’t get our team ready every day, I’m just going to take my ball and go home because I’m not doing my job.
Erstad’s approach will work just fine for Angelo Altavilla. The senior infielder told reporters he didn’t have any exposure to the burgeoning rivalry from his hometown of Lakeville, Minnesota.
“Growing up in Minnesota, obviously you don’t hear a lot about it. You hear more about Minnesota-Wisconsin,” Altavilla said. “I’m not going to say I hate Iowa, but I want to beat their butt.”
The Huskers might not be using rivalry as a motivation but the fact that they’re currently in command of the Big 10 should be enough to inspire themselves. With a 10-2 record in conference play, the Huskers are a game and a half ahead of the Indiana Hoosiers and three games in front of Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota.
With five more series and one more midweek game to play, Nebraska will be locked in on trying to secure their place atop the standings in time for the Big 10 tournament in Omaha.
“Who you’re playing, when you’re playing them… we have no control over that,” Erstad said. “You just have to go out there and take care of your own business. We’re looking just to play high level consistent baseball.”
Two years ago, the Huskers finished atop the standings and won the conference. However last year, Nebraska’s season ended in flames, as they failed to make the Big 10 Tournament.
Now, with just five more series left and one more midweek game, NU are on a mission not to let themselves down and finish the season strong. “It’s just not getting complacent,” Altavilla said. “There’s going to be times where you’re going to lose games and you’ve got to bounce back with your best stuff.”
The Hawkeyes are 21-14 on the year. Nebraska is 21-11 overall. First pitch on Friday is set to take place at 6 o’clock. Coverage will begin at 5:30 on KLIN.