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March 19, 2013

Bases-loaded walk sinks Huskers in 11th inning

Nebraska vs. Cal State Fullerton box score

When the Huskers tallied four runs in the top of the second inning at No. 8 Cal State Fullerton Tuesday, it appeared that maybe the long-dormant offense was coming to life and that fact, combined with Nebraska's solid pitching, would get the team going a bit.

But there would be no momentum gained from this game. If anything, more frustration will likely set in after Nebraska walked in the game-winning run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning to lose 8-7, NU's third walk-off loss this season.

The Huskers dropped to 6-12 on the season.

"We missed opportunities," coach Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio appearance. "We had multiple chances. They basically tried to hand us the game early. We scored some runs and we didn't have any errors, but we made a boatload of mistakes that might as well be errors - on the basepaths, not being able to bunt, not being able to throw a strike when we have a 4-0 lead. Just numerous things where we're not to that point as a team where we're making plays to win.

"It's a lot of little things and we're not going to win baseball games if we continue to do that. I don't care who we're playing."

After a back-and-worth game gave way to extra innings, Josh Roeder, Nebraska's shut-down reliever so far this season, entered the game in the 10th and breezed through a 1-2-3 frame. But the 11th got off to an ominous start when the umpires ruled that Titan leadoff hitter Austin Kingsolver was hit by a pitch. Erstad, thinking Kingsolver swung, pleaded his case to no avail. A pair of walks sandwiched a ground out, loading the bases with one out.

Roeder seemed ready to escape the jam when he induced a pop out to second. But after getting two strikes on Jared Deacon, the sophomore couldn't punch out Fullerton's catcher and walked him to end the game.

Nebraska's offense, which scored a total of five runs last weekend against UC Irvine, finally showed signs of life. The Huskers' 14 hits were a season high and the seven runs were the most NU has scored since a 10-run performance against Northern Colorado on March 6.

"I thought we stayed in the middle of the field really nicely against a good pitcher," Erstad said. "We haven't had that kind of offensive production as far as swinging the bats."

But after scoring four times in the second and adding one apiece in the fourth and fifth innings, the bats again slipped back into the doldrums. The Huskers scored just once after the fifth and missed on several great scoring opportunities. Nebraska failed to get several bunts down and twice had a runner doubled off of a base on a line drive.

It quickly became apparent that the Huskers' early burst of offense wouldn't be enough. Luke Bublitz was efficient in his first two innings of work but melted down in the third, giving up four runs on four hits. He had to be rescued by Caleb Hawkins, who came in and stranded a pair of runners.

But Bublitz was far from the only NU hurler to struggle. The Huskers used six pitchers Tuesday night, four of whom gave up at least one earned run and a fifth, Michael Hoppes who gave up a double and a walk before hitting a batter and getting the hook. Dylan Vogt was the bullpen's rock, pitching three scoreless innings, keeping Nebraska in the game while the offense tried to scrape another run across.

The Huskers will take on the Titans Wednesday at 8 p.m. Though he used a lot of pitchers on Tuesday, Erstad isn't worried about having enough arms.

"That's why we brought 14 on the road," he said. "We've got plenty of guys that can throw. A couple of guys had their pitch counts down today so if we had to use them, we could. We've got plenty of arms and we'll be just fine."



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