Nebraska finally got to play baseball again in the rain-lengthened, curfew-controlled Big Ten Tournament. Two days and a handful of time changes after the Huskers recorded their tourney-opening win, Nebraska’s bats came up cold in the clutch, leaving 14 runners on base and failing to record an extra-base hit in a 2-0 loss to Iowa.
“We controlled that game. We had runners on base and we didn’t get the big hit,” Coach Darin Erstad said on the Husker Sports Network postgame radio show. “Credit to their guys for making pitches, but we came around on way, way too many balls. When we used the middle of the field we hit the ball hard, but too many pull-side ground balls.”
Ryan Erickson recorded the win for the Hawkeyes, pitching a career-high 7.2 innings of shut out baseball while scattering 10 hits. The Huskers left men on base in eight of nine innings.
Derek Burkamper pitched five innings, giving up two earned runs, and took the loss for Nebraska.
Iowa struck first in the bottom of the third when left fielder Chris Whelan drove a hanging breaking ball deep to left for a solo home run. The Hawkeyes added another in the fifth. After Burkamper retired the first two batters in the inning, Whelan and shortstop Mason McCoy, 3-for-4 on the day, hit back-to-back singles which brought Jake Adams to the plate.
The 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year was 0-for-10 in the tournament to that point, but grounded the first pitch he saw back up the middle to score Whelan. It was all the runs the Hawkeyes would need as the Huskers squandered big opportunities over the final two innings.
Left fielder Luis Alvarado got a two-out rally started with a single in the top of the eighth. Two more singles loaded the bases for right fielder Mojo Hagge, but the freshman went down 0-2 in the count and popped out to left.
Nebraska again loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, forcing Iowa to go to closer Josh Martsching. The senior struck out Alvarado on four pitches to record his seventh save of the season.
The Huskers’ struggles at the plate overshadowed a good day on the mound from Burkamper and Matt Waldron, who struck out five over three innings.
“We don’t have any time to pout and worry about it, we’ve got another game tonight,” Erstad said. “Derek pitched fantastic and Matt threw the ball really well.”
The loss set up a matchup with Maryland in the late game on Friday night, with the first pitch tentatively scheduled for 40 minutes after the conclusion of Minnesota-Indiana. Jake Meyers was expected to get the start for the Huskers.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.