After the Huskers allowed just one hit in the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader against Northern Colorado, it appeared Ryan Hander would keep that pitching momentum alive Friday at Louisiana Tech when he sent the Bulldogs down in order in each of the game's first two innings.
But Hander hit the first batter he faced in the third and seemed to lose his control from there, leading to a four-run inning. Though Hander settled down, the damage was enough as NU's offense again fell silent and the Huskers fell 5-0 to drop to 4-8 on the season.
When asked on his postgame radio show what he told the team after the game, Darin Erstad didn't conceal how he felt about the Huskers' effort.
"I don't think you want me to say that," Erstad said. "We probably need to keep that in house."
The fourth inning proved to be NU's undoing. After plunking the leadoff batter, Hander threw out the lead runner on an attempted sacrifice bunt and the storm seemed to have passed. But a pair of Bulldog singles loaded the bases and after a long battle with Ryan Gebhardt, Hander walked in a run. The next batter hit a bases-clearing double.
Though he prevented any further runs in the third, Hander gave up another score on a pair of hits in the fourth. Though Louisiana Tech wouldn't cross the plate again, the damage was done.
"Other than that, (Hander) competed pretty well," Erstad said. "But a four-run inning backed up by a one-run inning - there's your ballgame."
Hander didn't get any help from the offense. Louisiana Tech started Phil Maton, a freshman All-American last year who came into the game with a 0.49 ERA, and the big sophomore didn't disappoint. The Bulldog hurler gave up just four hits and two walks in his seven innings.
Given Maton's numbers entering the game, it didn't appear there would be an abundance of scoring opportunities. The Huskers did manage to put runners on base, but it couldn't bring them home. After stranding a runner on second in each of the first three innings, NU's most painful miss came in the fifth. With the bases loaded and two out, Chad Christensen flied out to right.
Nebraska had just one hit and two base runners after that. Overall, the Huskers stranded eight runners, six of whom were in scoring position.
Strikeouts were the main culprit, as NU struck out 11 times.
"We didn't do a good enough job of getting guys on in certain situations and putting pressure on them," Erstad said. "Our whole offense is based on putting pressure on people on having guys on base. There are some things we need to fix. Obviously it's not going as we want it to, and that's on us as coaches to get them ready."
Nebraska and Louisiana Tech will play a doubleheader Saturday with the first game starting at 1 p.m. Though the Huskers won't get the sweep they were seeking, the opportunity to come out of this weekend with a pair of wins is still there.
"I told them, 'This game is cruel and great at the same time,'" Erstad said. "If you're pouty and you're not ready, they're going to come right back at you with some more games. But it's also a great opportunity to get the ship righted and win a series tomorrow."
Around the horn
***After being shut out just once last season, NU has been failed to score in three games this year.
***Michael Pritchard took batting practice this morning and could play in tomorrow's doubleheader.