COLUMBUS, Ohio - All year long, Nebraska coach Darin Erstad has stressed the importance of pitching and defense. Hitting is great, he'd say, but the way to win sustainably was to execute on the mound and in the field.
Those two concerns came back to bite the Huskers for the last time this season. Starter Dexter Spitsnogle didn't make it out of the second inning and NU committed three errors to end the season with a 6-2 loss to Ohio State.
"It was all year - game 42, game 27, the last game here… it doesn't matter," Erstad said. "It comes down to execution and they executed better than we did. You're not just going to hit the ball all the time. You've got to be able to field your position and throw strikes."
Spitsnogle walked the first hitter he faced, but otherwise looked fine in a scoreless first inning. Things fell apart in the second, however. The senior gave up three hits and hit a batter. His last pitch walked in a run to make the score 2-0. Erstad called on Dylan Vogt and the junior responded with a strikeout with the bases loaded.
"I just wanted to give our team a chance to stay in the game and limit the damage," he said.
Vogt pitched into the seventh inning, giving up two runs, although only one was earned. As he has all season long, Vogt calmed the storm and kept NU in the game when things looked bleak.
"Vogt's our guy," Erstad said. "As soon as we get into a situation where we need to get out of it, he's coming in. We were going to ride him as long as we could. He's had a fantastic season."
But the Huskers couldn't mount much offense to back Vogt. After being held scoreless through five innings, Nebraska broke through in the sixth with RBI hits from Richard Stock and Kash Kalkowski. Vogt came out and kept the Buckeyes off the board in the bottom of the frame and it appeared the tide was turning.
But the Huskers went down in order in the seventh and Ohio State scored a run on a throwing error by third baseman Josh Scheffert, NU's third fielding miscue of the game.
"Very, very frustrating," the junior said afterward.
Scheffert led off the eighth with a single, but the Huskers couldn't push him across. The Buckeyes scored twice off of Travis Huber in the bottom half, leaving the Huskers needing one of their patented big innings.
Things looked promising when senior Cory Burleson doubled to lead off the ninth. But the offense fizzled from there, and Burleson watched from third as Chad Christensen futilely waved at the final pitch the Huskers would see this season.
Nebraska finished the season with a 35-23 record, its highest win total since 2008.
Around the horn
***Stock extended his hitting streak to 21 games with his RBI double in the sixth. The double was his 20th, the best mark on the team.
***Burleson threw out both attempted base stealers Friday, bringing his season total to 20 runners thrown out in 38 attempts.