Husker baseball loses to UNO 4-3 as internal frustration mounts
baseball Edit

Husker baseball loses to UNO 4-3 as internal frustration mounts

Core Jackson led the way at the plate for Nebraska with two hits. (Nebraska Athletic Communications)
Core Jackson led the way at the plate for Nebraska with two hits. (Nebraska Athletic Communications)

The Nebraska baseball team (4-9) struggled in almost every aspect of the game in a 4-3 walk-off loss to the UNO Mavericks (5-9) Sunday afternoon. Nebraska went 3-of-30 at the plate, left multiple outs on the scoreboard and issued five walks. In the words of Husker head coach Will Bolt attempting to define the a perplexing game, "Take your pick."

Both Nebraska's Koty Frank and Omaha's Charlie Bell were incredibly efficient in the first inning. Bell struck out the top of the Husker order and Frank only needed eight pitches to dispatch the Mavericks in the bottom half. Things changed in the second inning.

Josh Caron got Nebraska started by drawing a one-out walk. The freshman then stole second and was scored on a single by fellow greenhorn Core Jackson of Canada. It took Frank 35 pitches, but he preserved the 1-0 Husker lead in the Omaha half of the second despite surrendering three walks.

The Mavericks hit hard in the third.

Nebraska left two runners on in the inning, but Omaha cashed in on the Husker's miscues when it got a turn at the plate. A leadoff double for Harrison Denk had the Mavericks in business. Then Will Hanafan reached due to a Husker error on a sacrifice bunt scoring Denk and evening the game 1-1. Moments later, Mike Boeve crushed a ball to left center and Omaha had a 3-1 lead.

The problem was the anemic Husker bats.

Four of the next six Nebraska outs came by strikeout including two that spoiled a leadoff double by Brice Matthews. To his credit, Frank responded well after giving up the lead. He retired the next nine batters he faced until he allowed a single and was replaced by Kyle Perry in the sixth.

Finally, the Huskers broke through in the top of the sixth. It was the freshman duo of Caron and Jackson that answered for Nebraska. Caron got on base via an error while Jackson sent his first college homerun just past the video board in right center to even the game at 3-3.

Perry was strong for the Huskers posting zeros in the seventh and eighth. But much like when Frank was on the bump, the Nebraska offense was stagnant. So, with neither team able to bring anything across, it was a 3-3 tie entering the final frame.

The Huskers leaned on Caron again as he drew a walk to begin the inning. After Caron, it was back-to-back flyouts for the Huskers. Jack Steil stepped to the plate to try and drive pinch-runner Tyler Palmer home. Palmer stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error from the play, but Steil struck out and left Palmer 90 feet from home.

The Mavericks made quick work of the bottom of the ninth. Nine-hole hitter Jack Lombardi doubled with one out and was scored one pitch later on a single by Denk to give Omaha the win. Prior to the double, Lombardi had been 0-3 with two strikeouts.

Things click for Core

Caron and Jackson were the stars of the show Sunday.

The Huskers have to feel good about Jackson finally having some success at the plate. He has made some outstanding plays in the field throughout the season but had struggled mightily with the bat until this week.

The Wyoming, Ontario product was a combined 1-for-15 in his first seven games. In the two games since, he is 4-for-6 with a double, triple and a homerun. Add in the defensive ability he has showcased and there is plenty to feel good about. The biggest question is consistency.

Caron for example, has not had a multi-hit game or an extra-base hit since he went 2-3 with a double back on Feb. 20 against Sam Houston. To be fair, inconsistency is something that comes with underclassman in their first few weeks of college ball. Five of the first six Huskers in the batting order were underclassman.

The first five hitters combined to go 0-17 with three walks and nine strikeouts. From freshman such as Caron, Jessen, and Anglim such inconsistency is expected. From Everitt and Anderson (sophomore though he may be), more must be demanded. They were 0-8 with three strikeouts.

With those two and many others struggling, it is encouraging to see Jackson produce. This time not only in the field, but also in the batter's box.

"The game will really really really pick on the weak and right now we're very weak. We've got to find a way to get a lot tougher."
— Husker baseball head coach Will Bolt

Strikeouts and free passes

Any number of Bolt quotes could sum up the internal frustrations after Sunday. Underachieving, time to step up, rise to the challenge and mental toughness were all words or phrases he used to describe the situation.

The biggest issue hampering the offense is strikeouts. The Huskers went down on strikes in 11 of their 30 at bats. Several of those strikeouts occurred in critical situations such as when two runners were stranded in the third on a Anderson punchout.

In the fifth, Nebraska had runners on first and second following a leadoff double by Matthews and couldn't bring the runners home due to consecutive strikeouts. The final inning was the same story. Steil went down swinging with the go-ahead run at third base.

To make matters worse, the Huskers generally awarded walks and errors at poor times.

In the second, Frank threw 35 pitches in large part all due to walks he allowed. An error on a sacrifice bunt in the third inning scored a run and was immediately followed by a disastrous home run. Lastly, in the eighth Nebraska dropped multiple opportunities for flyouts in foul territory.

If the Huskers wish to turn this season around, they'll have to stop shooting themself in the foot.

What's Next:

Nebraska will play UNO once more for the home opener in Lincoln on Monday. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the Huskers Radio Network and televised on BTN+.

Then, the Huskers continue their homestand with games with New Mexico State on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday's tilt is slated for 6:35 p.m. while Wednesday's game will start at 1: 35 p.m. and both games will be televised on BTN+.