Small miscues pile up for Huskers in series loss to Iowa
Iowa batters pounded out double-digit hits for the second straight game, Nebraska left nine runners stranded, and the Hawkeyes held off the Huskers 5-3 to take Saturday’s Game 2 and clinch the weekend series in front of a season-high 7,416 fans at Haymarket Park.
What was once a 2-2 ball game turned quickly into a 5-2 margin in the seventh inning, and while Nebraska was able to add a run in the bottom frame, it couldn’t complete the comeback against the Iowa bullpen.
Regardless of Sunday’s result, this will be the Huskers’ first conference series loss in almost a full year. It’s also their first home conference series defeat since May of 2015, drops their conference record to 4-3-1, and their overall record to 20-13-1.
Iowa (22-11, 5-3) had five RBIs with two outs in innings, marking the first time in over a month that Nebraska’s pitching staff has struggled in extended innings. Comparatively, Nebraska had couldn’t drive in a run with two outs. The Huskers hit just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“We’re getting some pitches to hit, we just haven’t done it,” head coach Darin Erstad said after the game. “When we’ve made a few mistakes, we’ve paid for it.
“When we get those opportunities, it’s going to be a back and forth game. Both games have been that way and they’ve gotten the hits more than we have.”
Iowa set the pace with power once again, pounding out five extra base hits to Nebraska’s one. But it was the Huskers who got on the board first when left-handed pitcher Ryan Erickson committed a balk, came dangerously close to a wild pitch, and allowed a grounder that was misthrown by shortstop Mason McCoy, bringing in Luis Alvarado for the first run of the game.
Iowa answered in the top of the fourth inning with back to back singles through the shift. Austin Guzzo and Matt Hoeg both hit sharp grounders to the second base bag that poked through the infield and gave the Hawkeyes a 2-1 lead.
After Angelo Altavilla broke a 15-at-bat hitting slump with a leadoff single in the sixth, senior Ben Miller brought him home on an RBI groundout to tie the game. But the Hawkeyes added three runs in the next inning thanks to a two-run double by slugger Jake Adams and a one-run double by cleanup hitter Robert Neustrom.
The Huskers got their best opportunity to respond in the bottom of the seventh inning. Altavilla, Mojo Hagge, and Luke Roskam loaded the bases for the home team with one out. Jake Meyers drew a gutsy full-count walk to plate Altavilla and cut the lead to 5-3, but Scott Schreiber chopped a high bouncer into a 4-3 double play to end the inning.
“We had opportunities to score with the bases loaded there and we didn’t get a hit,” Erstad said. “We just haven’t been able to get that big hit when we’ve needed it.”
One of the only Huskers in this series to get those big hits is Alvarado, who followed up Friday’s career-high four hits with a 2-for-3 performance on Saturday. So dangerous is the junior that Iowa intentionally walked him in the sixth inning, but he came back with a big double in the eighth.
“I’ve been just sticking to the approach,” Alvarado said. “I’ve been just being who I am and swinging hard, and I’ve been getting lucky.”
This weekend marks the first time the Huskers have lost the first two games of a series in over a month. How did they respond last time? Meyers threw a complete game shutout in a 10-0 blowout of Western Carolina.
“It doesn’t matter what the score was like of the game before,” Alvarado said. “If we win, we reset and we come back and play hard. If we lose, we come back and we play hard.
“We take it one game at a time. It doesn’t matter what the result of the game before was.”
Nebraska will try to salvage Game 3 of the series on Sunday afternoon. First pitch from Jake Meyers is set for 2:02 p.m. at Haymarket Park.