Husker baseball strikes out 16 times in bleak 8-1 defeat
Nebraska baseball (14-23, 4-7) turned in one of its worst offensive performances of the season Saturday in a 8-1 loss to Indiana (16-22, 4-7). The Huskers left ten runners on base, hit .156 and tied a season high in strikeouts with 16. The Hoosiers snatched a big early lead and Nebraska crumpled.
The second inning set the tone for the entire contest.
After a scoreless first, the Huskers drew first blood on a two-out double by Core Jackson scoring Leighton Banjoff. Nebraska quickly handed the Hoosiers a gift in the bottom half of the inning. An error by Jack Steil at first base put Matthew Ellis on and he advanced to second on the second out.
It spiraled downward from there.
Five straight batters reached for Indiana beginning with a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Very rarely is the term "no man's land" used to describe an area on the infield, but freshman Max Johnson found it. The final hitter in the Hoosier order placed a ball perfectly between third base, shortstop and the mound to load the bases. It was his first career hit.
Indiana struck quickly. Bobby Whalen poked a ball into right center to score two runs and the Hoosiers had the lead. After the second walk of the inning, Josh Pyne delivered a bases-clearing double to stretch the lead to 5-1. The Huskers went down in order in the third and Indiana tacked on another run with Carter Mathison's solo blast to make it 6-1.
Hoosier starting pitcher Bradley Brehmer faced little resistance from then on. He struck out the side in the fourth against the heart of Nebraska's order. He recorded eight straight outs via strikeout before a two-out single from Brice Matthews in the sixth. That inning was the senior's last, but he finished with an impressive 11 punchouts.
To Husker starter Emmett Olson's credit, he stabilized well after that catastrophic second inning. The sophomore struck out five and did not allow any further damage until he was relieved for Corbin Hawkins in the seventh.
The eighth inning was another backbreaker for Nebraska. Griffin Everitt hit a leadoff double before the next two Huskers were retired. With two outs, Brice Matthews and Leighton Banjoff each earned a walk to load the bases. Pinch hitter Will Walsh dug in and, on theme, struck out stranding three.
The Hoosiers added insurance in the eighth. Whalen's fourth hit of the day was a triple that knocked in a run. To add insult to injury, Whalen stole home to make it 8-1. Nebraska had nothing to offer in the ninth and lost for the fifth time in the last six games.
To say Nebraska struggled at the plate on Saturday afternoon would be an understatement. Watching the first two innings, it would be hard to guess what was to come. The Huskers got great contact and would have had multiple extra-base hits if not for a few solid plays from Indiana outfielders.
Oddly enough it was the five-run second for Indiana that seemed to crush Nebraska's spirit. The at-bats in the third held some of the competitive nature from the first two innings but everything changed in the fourth. Max Anderson, Luke Jessen and Matthews went down on strikes for three atrocious at-bats.
Those struggles spilled over into the fifth as well as Anderson and Jessen's turn at the plate in the sixth. The final combined line for the two is an astounding 0-7 with seven strikeouts. Three of the team's 16 strikeouts came with runners in scoring position capped by Walsh's looking punchout with the bases loaded in the eighth.
Nebraska averages 9.4 strikeouts per outing. The Huskers are 4-12 when over their average. The team has posted double digit strikeouts in 16 out of 37 games.
Winning a baseball game when 16 of the 27 outs in a game (59%) come via strikeout is incredibly hard. Strangely, Nebraska did just that earlier this season when it struck out 16 times in a 5-3 win over Ohio State.
Emmett Olson could have hung it up after the second inning.
Unlike the Husker bats, he didn't collapse. His stat line is one of the most peculiar on the pitching staff. He has surrendered 26 runs on the year and only 11 have been earned. That trend continued on Saturday on a day in which he allowed six runs and five of those were unearned.
His ERA amazingly went down to 2.45.
The final line for the sophomore was one earned run on nine hits to go along with five strikeouts and two walks. If there is a positive in this game for the Huskers, it's Olson. He now has the lowest ERA on the team and has turned in three straight starts longer than five innings with five strikeouts in each.
That is a weapon Nebraska can use on the pitching staff for the next two seasons.
The Huskers will look to avoid back-to-back sweeps in a conference series on Sunday against Indiana. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m. and the game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. Those interested can also listen to the game on the Huskers Radio Network. Nebraska's starting pitcher is TBD as of now.