Struggles add up for Nebraska in rare home loss to Northern Colorado
The midweek blues came back to bite the Nebraska baseball team again Tuesday afternoon as Northern Colorado downed the Huskers 6-3.
Nebraska (9-7) walked five and committed three errors as the Bears (11-5) won in Lincoln for just the sixth time in the 45 games the teams have played against each other in Nebraska. It was UNC’s first win in Lincoln since 2014. Nebraska was 39-5 against UNC in Lincoln coming into Tuesday’s game.
The struggles on the mound and in the field were too much for Nebraska’s offense to overcome. The Huskers struck out 11 times against five Northern Colorado pitchers, managed just five hits, all singles, and went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
The lack of production came three days after Nebraska scored a combined 35 runs in a Saturday doubleheader sweep of Cal Poly.
“This game, you get runs in bunches, you get hits in bunches,” senior Scott Schreiber said. “And once we get going that’s usually how it flows. We weren’t able to get that rhythm going today.”
Husker coach Darin Erstad lamented Nebraska’s missed opportunities. The Huskers drew leadoff walks in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but could only take advantage in the sixth, when they scored all three of their runs. The set included a two-run single from Luke Roskam.
In the other three innings, Nebraska followed its leadoff walks with a strikeout, a double play and a popped up bunt that was caught by UNC pitcher Corey Nakakura.
“You have your opportunities when they give you leadoff walks, and you don’t take advantage of them,” Erstad said. “That’s what you get.”
In winning its sixth consecutive game, Northern Colorado turned leadoff walks in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings into runs. The Bears scored two in the fifth thanks in part to a Nebraska throwing error, then got back-to-back walks and a sac bunt to open the eighth before scoring the go-ahead run on a sac fly.
UNC put the game away in the ninth as Nebraska got sloppy.
After a leadoff walk, the Bears took advantage of Nebraska’s third error, then scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Similar to its 14-8 loss to Cal Poly on Thursday, Nebraska’s shaky midweek pitching was hurt further by a defense that committed three errors.
The most critical came in the fifth, when Nebraska turned a tailor-made double-play ball that would have ended the inning into a fielder’s choice and a throwing error that led to two runs.
“I think they’re trying too hard,” said Erstad, who added he didn’t expect Nebraska’s early-season defensive struggles. “When you do that, kind of like at the play, when you get going and try to do too much, you struggle. I’ve seen guys trying to make plays that aren’t there.
“Overall we’re just not playing very good baseball on a consistent basis.”
Northern Colorado never trailed, going ahead in the top of the first inning when No. 2 hitter Cole Maltese lifted a Matt Waldron offering into the strong breeze blowing out to right field for his third home run of the season.
Schreiber provided Nebraska’s lone bright spot, finishing with three of the Huskers’ five hits to become the 26th Husker to reach 200 hits in a career.
The senior went 3 for 4 while his teammates combined to go 2 for 27. Roskam and Luis Alvarado had Nebraska’s other hits.
“It’s just trusting our preparation, trusting in each other that, if I don’t get it done, Jesse’s going to get it done behind me. And if he doesn’t get it done, then Luke’s going to get it done,” Schreiber said. “Just trusting in that and not trying to put too much pressure on yourself is pretty big in this game.”
Nebraska closes its two-game series with UNC on Wednesday. Mike Waldron (0-1) takes the bump for NU, with first pitch at 1:30 p.m.