Nebraska baseball grabs early lead, outhit 14-6 in loss to Illinois
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Nebraska baseball grabs early lead, outhit 14-6 in loss to Illinois

Core Jackson was the lone bright spot for the Huskers on Friday night going 2-4 with two RBIs. (Nebraska Athletic Communications)
Core Jackson was the lone bright spot for the Huskers on Friday night going 2-4 with two RBIs. (Nebraska Athletic Communications)

Nebraska baseball (19-28, 7-12 Big Ten) was in desperate need of a victory Friday, but the Huskers couldn't deliver. Nebraska pounced for an early lead, but it was the Illinois Fighting Illini (27-19, 13-6 Big Ten) that had the most success in the early innings. Illinois plated seven runs in the first four frames en route to a 8-3 victory in the series opener on Friday night.

Following a scoreless first inning, the Huskers drew first blood in the second inning. With two outs, freshman Core Jackson slapped a single through the right side to advance Leighton Banjoff to second base. Next up came Josh Caron who punched one through the left side scoring Banjoff and giving Nebraska the 1-0 lead. Caron, another freshman, had not seen the field since April 27 against Omaha.

Illinois countered with a two-out rally of its own in the home half of the second. No. 8 hitter Brody Harding doubled to right and quickly scored after a throwing error from Jackson at shortstop. The inning continued but Husker starting pitcher Shay Schanaman left the bases loaded, holding the 1-1 tie.

The cracks had started to show in Schanaman during the second.

The senior surrendered three straight singles to begin the third scoring a run and giving the Fighting Illini the lead. Then the No. 7 hitter in the Fighting Illini order made Schanaman pay. Taylor Jackson took a pitch from Nebraska's Friday starter and put it over the fence in left-center field. It was his seventh homer of the season and Illinois led 5-1 after three.

The Fighting Illini tacked on their sixth and seventh consecutive runs in the fourth. Illinois began the frame with a pair of doubles sandwiching a groundout. The second was from Cam MacDonald who scored a run with his second hit of the day.

That was the end for Schanaman who finished the day allowing nine hits and six earned runs while only striking out two. The start lasted 3.1 innings and was his shortest since he was pulled after just 1.1innings back on February 26 versus TCU.

In contrast, he was relieved by Mason Ornelas who provided the Huskers with his longest outing of the season at 4.1 innings.

While the Nebraska offense continued to stumble through the fifth and sixth, Ornelas worked quickly. The Texas A&M transfer retired six of the seven he faced before his smooth sailing was disrupted in the seventh. Harding and was brought home on a single from Danny Doligale to grow the Illinois lead to 8-1 with seven innings complete.

The Huskers held off the Fighting Illini threat in the eighth and then the Nebraska bats finally awoke in the ninth. With two outs, Jackson used his second hit of the evening to score Colby Gomes and Max Anderson cutting the Illinois lead to 8-3.

It was too little, too late.

In the end, a untimely and poor outing from a senior starting pitcher and the consistent inconsistency at the plate doomed the Huskers. Nebraska struck out 12 times, grounded into two double plays and had four consecutive 1-2-3 innings prior to scoring its final two runs in the ninth.

With the loss, the Huskers are now 10th in the Big Ten standings. Northwestern remains ahead of Nebraska in ninth with an equal record of 7-12. Purdue sits at eighth in the conference after dispatching the Wildcats on Friday.

The Huskers have five games to move passed the Boilermakers in the standings and extend their season. That quest resumes at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon as Nebraska meets Illinois for game two of the series. The game will be streamed on BTN+ and can be heard on the Huskers Radio Network.