Go figure. Nebraska collected 14 hits, against five pitchers.
Count ‘em, 14.
The problem was, all 14 of the hits were singles.
Plus, the Huskers had only two other baserunners, one on a walk, another hit by a pitch. And more to the point perhaps, they left 12 runners on base, including at least one in every inning.
“It’s obviously frustrating as a team when you go out and we had 14 hits and only put up two runs,” said Mojo Hagge, who had three of the hits and drove in one of the runs.
“So it’s just executing when we need to.”
Oh yes, the 14 hits were one fewer than Northwestern State had. And the Demons made the most of 14 singles and a double, aided by a couple of Nebraska defensive mistakes to rally from a 2-1 deficit after six innings to win 6-2 on a 40-degree Saturday afternoon at Hawks Field.
“It’s not necessarily the greatest day to play baseball,” said Husker Coach Darin Erstad. “You know who’s going to grind it out more and who takes care of the baseball better.
“We came out good, I thought. They brought their reliever (in) and (he) did a really nice job of mixing his pitches. We had bases loaded with one out. In a matter of two pitches they’re out of the inning, with trying to score on a wild pitch and I think a strikeout, was it?”
The inning was the fourth, when Nebraska appeared poised to respond to a Northwestern State run in the top of the inning. Jaxon Hallmark, who had walked to lead off the inning, tried to score when a Danny Hlad pitch got past the catcher. Then Zac Repinski took a called third strike.
Hlad worked 4.1 innings in relief, allowing six hits and striking out two.
“As the game goes on there . . . bunting . . . but defense, we work on that more than anything,” Erstad said. “It’s just disappointing to see that falter as it did.”
Northwestern took the lead in the seventh on the day’s lone extra-base hit, a one-out, RBI double, and a two-out single. But three unearned runs in the ninth might have been the fatal blow.
After a hit batter to lead off the inning, a sacrifice bunt was mishandled, giving Northwestern State two baserunners with no outs. Another intended sacrifice bunt resulted in a base hit, and after an out, the Demons got a sacrifice fly and a two-run single to send some Husker fans to the exits. “Again, we’re making too many mistakes, you know, from time to time (and) it’s costing us,” said Erstad.
Nebraska would have had runners at first and second with two outs in the sixth but Hagge was thrown out trying to advance to third. “It’s one of the cardinal rules of baseball (to) not make the last out at third.” Erstad said. “We talk about the ball dictating how far off the base you’re going to go.
“And that ball’s right in front of him. He knows that. He’s just trying to make a play.”
So was Hallmark when he tried to score on the wild pitch.
Unlike the misplayed bunts, those were aggressive mistakes.
And “I can handle those,” said Erstad.
The Huskers (10-8) and Northwestern State (11-7) play on Sunday at 11:05 a.m. Right-hander Matt Warren (2-0, 5.03) is set to pitch for Nebraska against left-hander Ridge Heisler (3-0, 1.27). In 28.1 innings, Heisler has allowed 24 hits, with 27 strikeouts and only five walks.
“We’ll see how things go tomorrow, come out with a fire,” Hagge said.
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.