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May 6, 2013When he first took the mound in Monday's series finale, Indiana starting pitcher Aaron Slegers, who stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 250 pounds, looked like a modern-day Goliath.
Unfortunately, there were no Davids in Nebraska's lineup on this day.
Slegers, who entered the game with a 6-1 record and a 1.85 ERA, was masterful against the Huskers. He didn't display overpowering stuff, but he held Nebraska to three hits through the first eight innings. The Huskers showed some life and scored a pair of runs in the ninth, but Indiana's offense made sure the game was well in hand by that point. Thanks to some wildness by the NU staff, the Hoosiers blasted Nebraska 10-2 to win the series finale at Haymarket Park.
The loss dropped the Huskers to 21-25 on the season and 12-6 in Big Ten play. NU is now alone in third place in the conference standings.
"He's a tall guy and he's got a good angle to his fastball," coach Darin Erstad said of Slegers. "It's very difficult to get your barrel behind the baseball when a guy is pitching down in the zone. He just pounded the zone. He didn't even have to use his off-speed stuff too much. They walked zero and we walked nine. End of story."
For all the struggles NU had against Slegers, the Nebraska pitchers didn't give the team much of a chance to stay in the game. The nine total walks were the most the Huskers have issued since they allowed 11 in the third game of the season. The Hoosiers put the leadoff batter on seven times, four of which came via a free pass.
Aaron Bummer hardly got the pitchers off on the right foot. The sophomore had calmed his wild side since being inserted into the weekend rotation, walking just two batters in his last 16 innings. But the lefty struggled to find the plate Monday, walking a career-high five hitters.
Despite Bummer's struggles, he kept the Huskers in the game until being removed after walking the leadoff man in the fifth. Nebraska trailed just 2-0 at that point, but Ryan Hander entered and went on to give up a three-run homer. The way Slegers was dealing, that lead was just about insurmountable.
"(Bummer is) a young guy growing as a pitcher," Erstad said. "It was a big game in front of a big crowd and it just wasn't the match for the day. He's got to throw strikes and obviously he didn't do that today. Sometimes you have to take a step back to grow as a player. This is one of those steps for him and we're going to throw him right back out there next weekend. He'll keep growing."
Meanwhile, Bummer's counterpart kept the Huskers from mounting any kind of threat against him. It took eight innings before Nebraska got two base runners on in the same frame. The bats finally awoke in the ninth, scoring a pair of runs on four hits and chasing Slegers midway through the inning. But any hopes of a miraculous comeback were squashed when Kash Kalkowski was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Bryan Peters' single to end the game.
"We talk about pitching down in the zone all the time and common sense would say the higher up you are, the ball is going to travel at a great downhill distance," Erstad said of the effect Slegers' height has on hitters. "That's why you preach pitching down in the zone. He pounded down in the zone, elevated when he wanted to and had his way with us."
Around the horn
***Nebraska allowed five home runs in the three games, the most it has allowed in a series this year. The previous high had been two (Cal State Fullerton and Ohio State).
***Nebraska committed a pair of errors in the ninth inning, just the third time in the past 11 games the Huskers have had a fielding blunder.
***Rich Sanguinetti's eight-inning single extended his on-base streak to 31 games.
***The attendance was 2,768.