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February 16, 2014

NU rally falls short in 5-3 loss to Gonzaga

Dormant for much of the day, the Husker offense found some life late Sunday's matchup with Gonzaga. After senior Michael Pritchard belted his first career home run in the eight, Nebraska scored a pair of runs on an Austin Darby single in the ninth. But Steven Reveles grounded out and the Huskers fell 5-3 to Gonzaga.

The defeat dropped NU to 2-2 on the season-opening weekend. Nebraska beat Pacific 5-3 Friday night and won their first matchup 4-2 against Gonzaga Saturday night.

"We never sustained any pressure," Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio appearance. "I didn't think we brought the energy, and that's on me. They came out with energy and we didn't match it."

Freshman Derek Burkamper's career couldn't have started much better as the right-hander pitched a 1-2-3 first inning. But things quickly went downhill from there - Burkamper gave up a pair of runs in the second (which began with a leadoff walk), then allowed three more in the third to end his day.

"You learn the hard way that you have to pound the zone," Erstad said. "He had to be able to fight through that. He had to make a pitch (in the third inning) and he left it up and the guy crushed it. I thought he showed some good signs."

The bullpen kept Nebraska in the game with another strong effort. Jeff Chesnut was excellent in his three shutout innings, and Jake Hohensee and Bob Greco each pitched shutout frames. Excluding a disastrous showing against No. 2 Oregon State Saturday afternoon, NU's relievers combined to give up just two runs in 12.1 innings.

The bats finally awoke in the late innings to make things interesting. Pritchard whacked a home run to right to give NU its first run in the eighth. Christian Cox and Ben Miller scored when Gonzaga's right fielder bobbled Darby's single in the ninth, but Reveles grounded out with Darby on second to end the game. The Huskers left four runners in scoring position in the contest.

Nebraska will return to Arizona next weekend for a three-game set with Oregon State, Washington and Utah, and Erstad is hoping to see better energy than he got from the team Sunday.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Erstad said. "Let's just put it that way."

Around the horn

***Pritchard's single in the third inning extended his on-base streak to 46 games.

***Greco had arguably the strongest debut of any newcomer, pitching 3.1 shutout innings over two games.

***Three of Nebraska's four starters failed to make it to the fifth inning this weekend.

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