Brandon Pierce has said it time and time again - he's his own worst enemy. When the sophomore struggles, it's usually a result of the wild inaccuracy of his pitches that plagues him from time to time.
That was the case Friday night, when Pierce walked two batters in the bottom of the seventh inning, both of whom came in to score and tie the game. The Wolverines scored again to take the lead and the Huskers couldn't respond, falling 6-5.
Four of the Wolverines' six runs were scored by a batter who walked as NU dropped to 33-21 overall and 13-10 in conference play. NU's seven walks tied a season-high.
Coach Darin Erstad, understandably, was more than displeased after the game.
"It was absolute garbage all the way around," Erstad said on his postgame radio show. "It was terrible. We had seven walks, we had four bunts we didn't get down, we didn't get a hit and run down… absolute garbage in all parts of execution."
The Huskers appeared ready to cruise to another victory much like they did last night after a big top of the fourth inning. Josh Scheffert came in to score on a double steal, then Pat Kelly launched a three-run homer to give starter Ryan Hander a 4-0 lead.
But Hander, who had allowed just two base runners in his first three innings of work, lost his control in the bottom of the fourth. He walked the first two batters, both of whom scored on a double by Brett Winger. The Wolverines tacked on another run to cut the deficit to one.
The Huskers added a run in the fifth and Pierce, though wild, pitched scoreless fifth and sixth innings. But the walks came back to bite him in the seventh. With one out, Pierce walked two and gave up a single. Dylan Vogt came in and allowed an RBI ground out and a single that scored the tie-breaking run.
Nebraska couldn't score after Austin Darby led off the eighth with a single. Vogt struck out the side in the bottom of the frame to give the Huskers a chance in the ninth.
But NU couldn't come through. Chad Christensen roped a one-out single, but Richard Stock grounded into a double play to end the game.
Although the offense squandered some scoring opportunities and left eight men on base, the bases on balls issued by the Huskers are the main culprit. Nebraska offered up seven walks two other times this season, going 1-1 in those contests.
"We try to stay positive, we try to get on them, we try all different tactics to try and have them find the zone," Erstad said. "We have to do a better job of handling adversity. At the end of the day, our execution was absolutely awful today and we don't deserve to win when we play like that. We're not going to be in Columbus very long if we play like that."
The win almost certainly locks the Huskers into the conference tournament's fourth or fifth seed. Indiana won earlier Friday to secure the second seed.
Around the horn
***Dexter Spitsnogle will start the series finale tomorrow at 12:05.
*** Stock used a double in the fifth inning to move his hitting streak to 17 games. The double was Stock's team-leading 17th.