The baseball in college was changed this year: smaller seams.
To Elijah Dilday, the ball underwent a lot of other changes, too.
“I hadn’t seen a live pitch in a long time and it looked like it was coming in 150 mph and seemed a lot smaller than I remembered when I first got back,” said Dilday, Nebraska’s freshman left fielder. “It takes a little bit to get comfortable, but the more you play, the better you feel.”
Dilday had shoulder surgery last fall, and the high school All-American from Frances Howell High in St. Charles, Missouri, could run in practice. He even got to the point where he could field some, but he couldn’t swing a bat or play full-speed until Nebraska had played almost 28 games.
Now, he’s likely to earn his 11th start of the season Friday night in the first game of a three-game Big Ten series with Minnesota at 7:05 p.m. at Haymarket Park.
One of the top recruits in the Midwest, Dilday has shared time with Christian Cox and Luis Alvarado this season. Coach Darin Erstad explained that he wanted each player to get some extended time to get a rhythm at the plate and in the field. He added that freshman Jake Meyers also would see more time in the outfield with center fielder Ryan Boldt and right fielder Austin Darby, but the Huskers count on Meyers as a pitcher, too.
A self-described aggressive hitter, Dilday is hitting just .212 through 33 at-bats.
“I’ve always been aggressive, and sometimes that hurts me,” Dilday said. “Sometimes that changeup is in the dirt and I’m swinging. But it’s getting better the more I play.”
Dilday still goes through rehab on his shoulder twice a week and spends extra time with trainers so he doesn't re-injure his arm.
“It’s just that I had never been away from baseball, or even just swinging and hitting that long in my life,” he said. “Even when I was in other sports, I still took swings and hit with my dad (Bart).”
Erstad said Dilday is important to the Huskers.
“He hasn’t had that many live at-bats and he struggled on his first road trip last week at Maryland, a tough place to play against a very good team on a field that has seen better days,” Erstad said. “He is terrifically talented and he will be a big part of this team for a long time. I like his intensity.
“He looks ready to hit and is very solid defensively."