Nebraska baseball fails to overcome early deficit, loses 8-7 to Indiana
It's another one-score loss for Nebraska baseball.
The Huskers (14-22) fell behind early to the Indiana Hoosiers (15-22) and couldn't finish another ninth-inning rally. A three-run homer from Brice Matthews drew Nebraska within one, but it wasn't enough as the Huskers fell 8-7.
Nebraska went quietly against Hoosier starter Jack Perkins in the top of the first. Two strikeouts and a ground out was all the Huskers could manage. Shay Schanaman toed the rubber for the Nebraska and tallied two quick outs in the bottom half. But Indiana brought five to the plate with two outs and smashed a pair of doubles to claim a 1-0 lead after the initial inning.
The Huskers got the leadoff man on in the second with Max Anderson’s infield hit but Perkins was there to stymie Nebraska once again. The Huskers stranded a Hoosier with the help of a fielder’s choice at third base to hold Indiana off the scoreboard. That momentum couldn’t help the bats in an empty top of the third for the Huskers and it didn’t carry over to the defensive end either.
It began with two major Husker miscues.
First it was an error from Matthews at second base and then Schanaman plunked Indiana's Matthew Ellis on a 0-2 pitch to put two on. It didn’t take long for the Hoosiers to capitalize. A single from Brock TIbbits and a double from Carter Mathison scored a run each. A sacrifice fly from Tyler Doanes added another run and Indiana led 4-0 through three.
Indiana stranded another duo of Nebraska runners in the fourth and piled on at the plate in the home half of the frame. Back-to-back singles from leadoff hitter Bobby Whalen and Hunter Jessee set the table for freshman Josh Pyne’s three-RBI slam to stretch the Hoosier lead to 7-0.
The Huskers broke through in the seventh.
Griffin Everitt drove in the first Nebraska run of the game with a single up the middle to score Cam Chick. With runners on first and second, Max Anderson walloped his fourth home run of the season to score three runs and cut the Hoosier advantage to 7-4.
Indiana countered with a two-out triple from Doanes to stabilize momentum and take a 8-4 lead to the eighth. Neither team scored in the penultimate inning and Nebraska entered the ninth down four.
The Huskers started strong with singles from Everitt and Garrett Anglim. Josh Caron dug in and worked a 3-2 count only to pop out in foul territory for the second out. Matthews stepped up next and blasted a ball for a three-run homer to make it 8-7 but Leighton Banjoff went down looking and the game was over.
It was Nebraska's ninth one-run loss of the season and the 12th loss by two runs or less. In six of the nine run losses, the Huskers have either had the tying run on base or at the plate.
Of free passes and missed opportunities
It's no secret that Indiana gives up a lot of freebies.
The Hoosiers entered the night leading the Big Ten in both walks and hit batters. Friday night was no different. Indiana hit two Nebraska batters and issued five walks. The Huskers only turned one of those free passes into a run.
On the flip side, the strikeout and situational hitting ghosts continue to haunt the Huskers. Nebraska went down on strikes 13 times including five looking punchouts. Nebraska's situational numbers improved greatly in the final third of the contest finishing at .333 with runners in scoring position. Yet, the Huskers left eight runners on base in the first six innings.
There is a level of optimism in seeing young struggling hitters such as Matthews and Anderson crush home runs in an enemy ballpark. But, Nebraska needs hits like that in the front half of a game in order to grab and maintain momentum.
Nebraska had two major goals on Friday.
The first was to get into a weak Indiana bullpen that had given up leads after the eighth inning in each of the three losses to Rutgers last week. It took until the seventh inning to knock starter Jack Perkins out of the game at 118 pitches. That's not what the Huskers wanted, although Perkins had hit set a career-high for pitches with 120 against Rutgers.
Following Perkins exit, Nebraska forced the Hoosiers to use two of their best relivers in Grant Holderfield and Braydon Tucker. Apart from Jack Walker, Holderfield and Tucker have the two best ERAs of the remaining Indiana arms. Contrast that with the limited use of CJ Hood and the 3.2 innings from Mason Ornelas and Nebraska is in good shape for the weekend.
The other goal was to limit multi-run homers.
The Huskers failed that benchmark. To be fair, Nebraska had two big shots of their own from Anderson and Matthews. However, the disastrous third inning filled with two major unforced errors from Matthews and Schanaman could have been an excellent opportunity for one and the Hoosiers cashed in on a three-run homer in the next inning.
Indiana is third in the Big Ten with 51 home runs and the Huskers will have to limit the long ball for the remainder of the weekend.
Nebraska resumes its series with Indiana with a 1 p.m. tilt on Saturday. The game can be streamed on BTN+ and radio listeners can tune to the Huskers Radio Network.