Huskers overpowered by Iowa in extra-innings loss
LINCOLN, Neb. - The Nebraska baseball team had the result in its grasp, or at least not far in the distance. Then, with one swing of the bat, it was a new ball game.
That was the story for the Huskers throughout Friday’s 7-6 loss to Iowa in which the Hawkeyes scored six on home runs. Iowa batters lit up starter Jake Hohensee with a solo shot in the first, a two-run dinger in the third, and a three-run bomb in the fourth.
Yet the Huskers had a chance to win it all night. They held on to the tie through the final three innings to force extras, but it wasn’t enough on a night when the Hawkeyes pounded out 13 hits against Hohensee, Robbie Palkert, and Chad Luensmann.
“They’re an aggressive hitting team,” Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said after the game. “When you mess up, you’re going to get hurt especially with a fastball, and that’s kind of how it worked."
Iowa (21-11, 4-3) started the scoring with two outs in the top of the first inning when Big Ten home run leader Jake Adams drove one over the fence in left center. After Nebraska’s Luis Alvarado tied the game on a wild pitch, leadoff hitter Chris Whelan snatched the lead back with a two-run homer to left.
Nebraska (20-12-1, 4-2-1) settled in on Hawkeyes pitcher Nick Gallagher in the fourth inning. A leadoff single by Ben Miller started an inning in which 10 Husker batters would see the plate. A sure double play ball was dropped by shortstop Mason McCoy that put Miller on second and Luke Roskam on first with one out in the inning.
Four straight walks by Gallagher advanced the runners before scoring Miller, Roskam, and Jesse Wilkening in succession to give the Huskers a 4-3 lead. Zach Daniels replaced Gallagher on the mound, but gave up the first RBI of the inning when Scott Schreiber rifled one straight back to the mound, pegging Daniels in the shoulder and scoring Jake Schleppenbach to give the Huskers a 5-3 lead.
Alvarado singled down the left field line to lead off the fifth inning, one of the junior’s career-high four hits on the night. Three batters later, Schleppenbach doubled to bring Alvarado home for his second run of the night to extend the Husker lead to 6-3.
But as the narrative had dictated all game, one swing of the bat completely swung the momentum. Tyler Cropley’s three-run homer was the Hawkeyes’ third off of Hohensee and tied the game at 6 in the top of the sixth inning.
From there, Nebraska’s scoring offense was stagnant, leaving five more runners on base of a game total 14.
“We had opportunities with the bases loaded, second and third, and we didn’t take advantage of them,” Erstad said. “We have an opportunity to get some runs and we don’t. We have to add on a little bit more there and we didn’t do it.”
Operating in the closer role, Luensmann came in to start the eighth inning and threw two scoreless innings to send the game into extras. But in the top of the 10th inning, second baseman Mitchell Boe, the bottom of the Iowa batting order, lined a single over Angelo Altavilla’s head at third base to score what would go on to be the winning run.
With one chance to tie the game, the Huskers got behind in pitch counts, getting out on 1-2 pitches in the first two at-bats of the 10th inning. After Schreiber drew a full-count walk, Miller struck out looking following a seven-pitch battle to end the game.
“It was a lot of up and downs,” Schleppenbach said of the game a whole. “We’ll just get a good night’s sleep and come back to the field tomorrow like it’s a brand new day, because it is, and just get a W tomorrow.”
Nebraska will look to even the series against Iowa and keep pace in the Big Ten standings tomorrow at Haymarket Park. First pitch from Husker senior Derek Burkamper is set for 6:05 p.m. after the conclusion of the Nebraska football spring game.