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Huskers fail to convert chances again, drop third straight

Nebraska left 10 runners on base in a 5-2 loss to Oregon State Saturday.
Nebraska left 10 runners on base in a 5-2 loss to Oregon State Saturday.

Nebraska hitters had Oregon State reliever Jake Mulholland on the ropes, but fell just short of closing the gap in the sixth inning of Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the eighth-ranked Beavers.

After Angelo Altavilla - who’s been the Huskers’ best player this weekend - drove in Scott Schreiber, Mulholland notched two quick outs to slow the bats. JUCO transfer Brison Cronenbold drove in another run, but Mojo Hagge flied out to left field to end the inning with the Beavers clinging to a 4-2 lead.

While Cronenbold was able to knock in a run, Nebraska struggled at the plate with two outs was seemingly unable to get runners on base with less than two outs. In fact, the only two leadoff hits for the Huskers came from Schreiber, batting fourth in the lineup. The Huskers finished with 10 players left on base.

“Where we were at in our at-bats, we put ourselves in position (to score),” said Nebraska coach Darin Erstad in his post-game radio show on the Husker Sports Network. “When you have to always get two-out hits, that makes it harder.”

Nebraska had to play from behind once again thanks to another hot start from Oregon State. Nick Madrigal scored off K.J. Harrison’s two-run shot in the first, and the big-swinging Beavers added two more runs in the second. Nebraska starter Jake Meyers left the game after just 54 pitches, forcing Erstad to call on the bullpen after 3 1/3 innings.

“Unfortunately, when those guys come in, we’re playing from behind,” Erstad said of his relievers, notably sophomore Jake McSteen, who gave up just two hits and an earned run over 3 2/3 innings. “Those guys are doing a great job coming in, but we have to get it figured out early.”

Nebraska had a chance in the eighth when Jake Schleppenbach drew a walk, but the Oregon State bullpen shut down the comeback opportunity. The Huskers couldn’t get a single hit in the final three innings, striking out five times. Each of closer Max Engelbrekt’s strikeouts in the ninth inning caught Nebraska batters looking.

Nebraska, the only winless team in the Big Ten-Pac-12 challenge, returns to face Utah on Sunday afternoon. The Utes defeated the Huskers 7-5 on Saturday night, which Erstad said was a frustrating result for his team, but a learning experience nonetheless.

“We’ve just got to keep grinding,” Erstad said. “We’re playing quality teams, and every little mistake you make is going to get exposed.”

Junior right-hander Jake Hohensee takes the mound for the Huskers Sunday, going up against Utah lefty Josh Lapiana, who won his first start last weekend against Cal State Bakersfield. Nebraska currently sits at 1-4 on the season, and will be looking to take some momentum into the Frisco College Baseball Classic next weekend.

“We’re going to be good,” Erstad said Saturday, “it’s just how quickly we can get there. We’re not there yet."