The Huskers brought one of the nation's top offenses into Evanston this weekend to face Northwestern, an 8-14 team fresh off of a series loss to Iowa. The Nebraska lineup looked very comfortable at the plate Friday as NU hitters totaled 13 hits in the 7-4 win.
But the Huskers were held to just seven hits in a 8-4 loss Saturday and experienced more of the same on Sunday, scratching out just six hits and falling 6-1 to the Wildcats.
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The offense figured to be in good shape with Zach Morton, owner of an 0-5 record and the Wildcats second baseman in the first two games of the series, on the mound. But Nebraska couldn't touch Morton, who kept them hitless into the fifth inning and went the distance to pick up his first win.
"We got beat in all three - we're actually fortunate we won one game here," coach Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio show. "I expected us to come out and play very well, but we got it taken to us. It all starts on the mound. Their starting pitching was fantastic and we never got anything rolling.
"We just got flat out beat."
Sophomore Zach Hirsch pitched effectively, but not nearly well enough to make up for the anemic offensive attack. He allowed three runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings, the main damage coming on a two-run home run in the fourth inning by Jack Havey.
"He gave us a chance to win," Erstad said. "Their guy was just better. He had that one mistake where the guy hits a homer, but for the most part he did a nice job."
Hirsch left with the game within reach, but the normally solid Dylan Vogt couldn't hold up his end of the bargain. The junior reliever gave up three runs in the seventh inning to greatly reduce whatever chances the Huskers had at making a comeback.
Nebraska didn't produce a base runner until the fourth inning, when sophomore leftfielder Michael Pritchard led off with a walk. Although Morton kept the Huskers hitless in the inning, Pritchard came in to score on a groundout by junior shortstop Chad Christensen.
Unfortunately for NU, that was as explosive as the offense would get. Pritchard had two singles to go along with his walk, but no other Husker had more than one hit.
Erstad was disappointed with the results the weekend produced, but said he liked his team's attitude and approach during the weekend and expects the Huskers (19-11, 3-3) to rebound from the series.
"The guys are playing hard and they're working hard," Erstad said. We'll get this thing squared away. We had a little hiccup here this weekend, but we've been playing good, consistent baseball and we'll continue to work hard and move on."
Around the horn
***Richard Stock started at catcher for the first time since Feb. 18 against Gonzaga. Erstad had previously said the Huskers wanted to get Stock behind the plate more, but he's had arm troubles that have kept him primarily at first base or designated hitter.
*** Christensen didn't get his first hit of the series until he singled with two outs in the eighth inning.
***Kale Kiser started all three games but went hitless this weekend. He was hit by a pitch three times.