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Huskers can’t recover from early deficit in 5-3 loss to Minnesota

Nebraska left five runners on base in the final three innings of Saturday's loss.
Nebraska left five runners on base in the final three innings of Saturday's loss.

FINAL STATS

The Nebraska bullpen locked it down after a rocky start, but the offense wasn’t able to get the big hit in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Minnesota that tied the weekend series at a game apiece.

Senior pitcher Derek Burkamper struggled for the third week in a row in his second straight loss, loading the bases in the first two innings before walking the leadoff batter in the third before getting the hook. Burkamper’s final line was five hits, four runs (all earned), three walks, and two strikeouts over just 2.0 innings.

All runs in the game were scored before the bottom of the fourth inning, but even with getting a runner on base in four of the final five innings, the Huskers weren’t able to bring one home. Of Nebraska’s seven hits in the game, five were recorded with two outs, including all three RBIs.

“We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole,” Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said in his postgame radio show on the Husker Sports Network. “Derek was obviously having a tough time getting ahead.

Matt (Waldron) did a nice job after hanging a changeup and giving up a two run homer. He gave us a chance to win and so did (Nate) Fisher. But again, you’re at the end there, you have a couple of runners in scoring position in a couple innings, you need that big hit again, and we didn’t get it. Just a hard-fought game, could’ve went either way.”

After the Huskers (22-15-1, 6-4-1) went down in order in the top of the first, the Gophers started the bottom of the first a hit and a bunt single before Toby Hanson drove in the first run with a liner up the middle. Burkamper struck out the side with the bases loaded to end the inning at 1-0, but the Gophers finished the frame with three hits.

Freshman Luke Roskam, batting as the designated hitter, evened the score at 1 in the top of the second with a home run to deep right center, his second blast of the season. But Minnesota responded by loading the bases in the bottom frame, scoring two on productive outs by Terrin Vavra and Micah Coffey.

Nebraska got one back in the top of the third when a single by Angelo Altavilla drove in Jake Meyers from second base. In the bottom of the inning, Burkamper was pulled with a runner on first and Waldron gave up a two-run home run to left fielder Jordan Smith that extended Minnesota’s lead to 5-2.

The Huskers responded with a Jesse Wilkening RBI in the top of the fourth, but the threat was quelled in the inning and for the rest of the game.

Minnesota (23-11, 8-3) got multi-hit games from Smith and second baseman Luke Pettersen, hitting in the 8 and 6 holes, respectively, with .300-plus batting averages. Meanwhile, Gopher relievers scattered two hits over five innings of work, not allowing a run.

“We chased (pitches) down a ton today, and that just can’t happen,” Erstad said. “That’s a big deal in those mixed counts, and they flipped them on us and we weren’t able to do that offensively and put ourselves in some tough situations.”

Nebraska had golden opportunities to cut into Minnesota’s lead in the seventh and eighth innings, but Altavilla and pinch hitter Zac Repinski struck out to end the innings and keep the deficit at two. Repinski, Nebraska’s most-used pinch hitter, has just three hits on the year.

Minnesota closer Brian Glowicki - who picked up his 13th save on the year - gave the Huskers a chance with a wild pitch that put Jake Schleppenbach on second in the ninth, but Meyers and Altavilla struck out to end the game.

With the series tied at 1, Nebraska will turn to Meyers on the mound Sunday, looking to stay undefeated in series finales.

“We’ve got to come out and be ready to play,” Erstad said. “Should be a fun day; great weather, great opponent, great setup and it’ll be fun.”

First pitch of the rubber match from Minnesota’s Siebert Field is set for 1 p.m. (CT).