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February 23, 2014
Huskers drop weekend finale 4-3 to Utah
With a chance to finish off an undefeated weekend in the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge, the Huskers figured to be raring to go Sunday against Utah. Instead, NU looked like a team that was playing on little sleep after its previous game finished early Sunday morning.
The Huskers' win over Washington ended at 2 a.m. CT and the team turned around to take on the Utes at noon. Nebraska had its chances, but it could never quite get over the hump and fell 4-3. NU is now 4-3 this season.
"Welcome to college baseball," Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio appearance. "The team that walks more people and doesn't make plays and doesn't situational hit, that's the team that loses. We had an opportunity to win this game a couple of different times. We got out of some jams and we grinded. I thought the effort was good. But at the end of the day, we just didn't get it done."
Shortstop Jake Placzek walked with two outs in the ninth, giving top hitter Michael Pritchard an opportunity to tie or win the game. But the senior struck out swinging, stranding NU's eighth runner of the game.
The Huskers spoiled several opportunities to tie the game, most notably in the sixth inning. A sacrifice bunt by freshman Ryan Boldt put runners on second and third with just one out, but left fielder Christian Cox struck out and catcher Taylor Fish ground out to first. Nebraska had another chance in the eighth after a walk by first baseman Austin Christensen and a single by Boldt. But Cox grounded out to the shortstop, killing Nebraska's last great chance to score.
Starter Chance Sinclair, who drew praise from Erstad for his outstanding control in his first career start last weekend, walked four in 1.2 innings and got an early hook. Nebraska's bullpen was fresh after facing a relatively light workload this weekend, but a better start was expected from Sinclair.
"It all starts on the mound," Erstad said. "Just like Christian (DeLeon) and Aaron (Bummer) did a nice job of throwing strikes early, it sets the tempo for how you go about your business. Chance will bounce back. He just didn't have it today, but we'll give him the ball again next week and he'll be better."
Neither Jeff Chesnut nor Derek Burkamper were particularly sharp in their relief appearances, combining to give up nine hits and three runs (two earned) in their 4.1 innings. Bob Greco and Zach Hirsch allowed just two base runners in their three combined innings, but the offense was unable to score a run and keep the game going.
"I think we played two very solid games (this weekend), but we just haven't been able to finish off weekends," Erstad said. "I thought the effort was really good. I thought we made some mental mistakes on easy plays. They're things that our guys know and they work hard at it, but we have to be able to come through in those situations."
The Huskers will travel down to Charleston, S.C., next weekend for a three-game set with The Citadel.
***Pat Kelly: In a lackluster game offensively, the second baseman's bat stood out. Kelly had two hits, including a double, and scored a run.
***Zach Hirsch: Erstad called on the senior to keep Utah off the board and give the offense a chance, and Hirsch was excellent. He allowed just one base runner in two innings, striking out two.
Around the horn
***Pritchard broke a school record by reaching base in his 49th straight game.
***Nebraska, which led the Big Ten in fielding percentage last year, already has seven errors this season. The Huskers had a pair of miscues Sunday.