It was back to the reality of Big Ten play for the Nebraska baseball team.
“This league is tough. You’d better show up with your ‘A’ game or you’re going to get beat,” Coach Will Bolt said on the Husker radio network in the late afternoon Sunday.
Nebraska hadn’t brought its “A” game to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, losing to Iowa 3-1 after falling to Ohio State 6-4.
The Huskers defeated Ohio State 10-4 on Friday and Iowa 4-0 on Saturday.
The weekend was a wash for the three teams; all of them lost on the days they played double-headers. Nebraska left on its bus ride home with a 5-3 record, the same as Ohio State. Iowa is 3-5. The Huskers are scheduled for a three-game series in Iowa City this weekend.
Nebraska managed just a combined 10 hits on Sunday, compared to 19 total in the first two games.
“We had a pretty poor approach at the plate,” said Bolt.
Strikeouts were again an issue, even in the wins. The Huskers struck out a combined 41 times in the four games, including 18 on Sunday. Last weekend, they struck out 46 times in four games.
Nebraska batted only .208 for the weekend, after batting .302 the opening weekend.
There were plenty of positives, of course, such as the starts by Cade Povich and Chance Hroch, both of whom went six innings to earn victories. Povich walked two and struck out 12 against Ohio State, Hroch struck out seven and walked only one, not allowing any runs, against Iowa.
Hroch is now 2-0 with a 1.50 earned-run-average.
Though he was 3-of-15 at-bat after going 8-of-15 the opening weekend, freshman Max Anderson hit his second home run of the season and drove in three in the win against the Buckeyes. He’s a leader in both categories, as well as leading in batting average, at .367. He has driven in eight runs.
Joe Acker, who is batting .321, also has eight runs-batted-in.
Freshman Jack Steil is second on the team in hitting with a .333 average. Jaxon Hallmark is batting .321, like Acker, and Leighton Banjoff is batting .333.
Senior Logan Foster, who redshirted last season after transferring from Texas A&M, got two starts in the outfield and went 3-for-7 with a home run.
He had only five at-bats in two games the opening weekend.
Freshman second baseman Brice Matthews hit a home run in the win against Ohio State and has six RBIs. Hallmark hit Nebraska’s other home run, in the first game.
The Huskers opened Sunday’s game against Ohio State with two runs in the first, but the Buckeyes responded with two-run home runs in the fourth and fifth to take a 4-2 lead. Nebraska came back to tie with two runs in the seventh, the second on Foster’s home run, only to see Ohio State hit another two-run home run, with two outs, in the top of the eighth.
The Huskers went up and down in order in their final two at-bats, three by strikeout.
The Iowa loss was similarly frustrating. A three-run Hawkeye third inning began with a double resulting from Hallmark’s losing sight of a high pop-up in center field to lead off the inning. A walk, two singles and a sacrifice bunt with one out produced the remaining runs.
Nebraska’s lone run came when Foster doubled in Banjoff, who had also doubled to lead off.
Losing a fly ball “shouldn’t be the difference in the game,” Bolt said during his radio interview. “They scored three runs that inning, and that shouldn’t hold us down.”
Other than that, “I thought we played pretty well defensively all weekend,” he said.
The Huskers didn’t commit an error, after committing only one the first weekend.
A team’s offensive approach is usually reflected in its walks-to-strikeouts ratio, said Bolt. Nebraska batters walked twice compared to 18 strikeouts on Sunday.
That was indicative of Sunday’s painful reality.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.