When reports of rain threatened Monday's game, Nebraska and Indiana decided it would be best not to test the weather and instead play a doubleheader Sunday. After winning the series opener Saturday, the Huskers had a great chance to steal at least one more game from the Hoosiers, one of their closest competitors atop the Big Ten.
But the day didn't go as the Huskers had planned. Both Nebraska starting pitchers gave up five or more runs in less than five innings and the defense committed three errors behind them as Indiana took both games by scores of 7-5 and 9-6.
"Defensively, we have to make plays," coach Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio show. "They made plays, we didn't. It starts and ends on the mound. When your starting pitcher goes out there and is up in the zone and isn't making pitches, that's going to happen. It's the same old song and dance."
Although Brandon Pierce got off to a rough start in game one, the Huskers looked to be in great position when Pat Kelly and Chad Christensen each hit home runs in the third inning to give NU a 3-1 lead.
But after two straight solid innings, the Hoosiers got to Pierce in the fourth. A walk and a double led to a run, and a pair of ground outs scored the runner from second to tie the game.
And the Hoosiers weren't done. Pierce walked two and gave up a single to load the bases with two outs before surrendering a two-run single to Michael Basil, ending the sophomore's day.
After a quiet sixth inning, Indiana added two more in the seventh, the final run coming on a two-out wild pitch with a runner on third by Ryan Hander.
The Huskers added a run in the eighth and had runners on first and third with no outs in the ninth. But they were able to plate just one runner and dropped the doubleheader's first game 7-5.
Unfortunately, the script didn't change much in game two. The Hoosiers battered starter Zach Hirsch for eight hits and six runs (four earned) in 1.2 innings and the sophomore left with a 6-1 deficit.
The Huskers tried to claw back into the game in the fourth. A sacrifice fly by Kelly and a two-RBI double by Cory Burleson pulled the Huskers within two.
But again, the pitching let NU down. Basil laced a two-out, two-RBI double off of Dylan Vogt in the bottom of the inning. Burleson again came through in the sixth with a two-RBI single, but the Huskers would have just one hit after that and fell 9-6.
The losses dropped NU to 29-18 overall and 9-9 in conference play.
The struggles by the starters will continue NU's search for effective weekend pitching. Kyle Kubat has performed well in his two weekend starts, but both Pierce and Hirsch have been shaky in their last few appearances.
"It's a process," Erstad said. "We'll find the right pieces to the puzzle. We'll keep getting guys opportunities and find the guys that want to step up. Kyle Kubat has stepped up and we'll go from there. We're not going to stop trying to find the right combinations."
Around the horn
***Michael Pritchard extended his hitting streak to 24 games with an infield single in the third inning of game two, the fourth-longest streak in NU history.
***Christensen hit a home run Friday and in the first game Saturday, his first bombs since March 17 against Louisiana Tech. With two more two-out RBIs, 24 of Christensen's 44 RBIs have come with two outs.
***NU has typically had great success when grabbing early leads in Big Ten play. Nebraska had been 6-1 in conference games when it scored first. The Huskers struck first with a run-scoring triple by Richard Stock in the first, but couldn't hold on.