The Nebraska baseball team is going through a rough stretch right now. The Huskers are 9-14 overall, 1-2 in Big Ten play and just 1-5 in their last six games. The latest loss, a 3-2 defeat to in-state rival Creighton in Omaha on Tuesday, tells the story.
Nebraska was only 2-of-15 at the plate when runners were in scoring position. It whiffed on golden opportunities late in the game while stranding eight on base.
The ineffectiveness at the plate with runners in scoring position didn’t just rear its ugly head against the Bluejays, it’s been a trend. In last Sunday’s loss to Michigan that gave the Wolverines the series win, the Huskers were 0-for-6 when runners were on second and third and left 10 on base. In the disastrous 21-4 loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which gave the Islanders the series victory, Big Red went 0-for-7 and stranded nine.
“You’re in position to win, you’ve done what you need to do to be in position to win the game, and we just didn’t do it,” Nebraska head coach Will Bolt said after the Creighton game. “There’s really not a whole lot of other buttons to press at that point. You’re first and third, nobody out with the middle of your order coming up, you can’t really draw it up a whole lot better than that.”
The inability to bring baserunners home obviously hurt the Huskers in the loss to Creighton. Adding to the misery, the Bluejays were outhit 8-5 and committed five errors, yet still won the game. Creighton head coach Ed Servais saw his team grow on Tuesday night and recognized the game’s intensity was ratcheted up thanks to playing a rival from 59 miles away.
“This is a different game than any other game we play all year,” Servais said. “We have rivals in our league with Connecticut and Seton Hall and St. John’s and Xavier, but this is a different game. And I’m so happy that the guys found a way, even though I’m not sure I’ve been a part of a game at Creighton where we committed five errors.”
The good thing about baseball is it’s a long season. Many more games are to be played, which provides ample opportunity to figure things out in the batter’s box. But, the clock is ticking to find answers. For the Huskers, that starts with this weekend’s series at Ohio State, which will come into the game with a record of 8-13 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
Among the issues plaguing Nebraska’s offense, having players step up and get hot for an extended period of time is one. Griffin Everitt and Garrett Anglim have provided sparks at the plate the season. Everitt is hitting .298 with a team-high five home runs and 17 RBIs while Anglim has a .358 average and is riding a four-game hit streak.
But more is needed.
“There are guys who are capable. I mean, if you look at statistics going back to this weekend, you had three or four guys who had really good weekends, then you had some 2-for-13s in there. Just the consistency, top to bottom,” Bolt said. “I still believe we have capable guys and guys who are able to get the job done. But some of it is immaturity of the group, some of it is inexperience when it comes to just grasping he concept of move-the-line offense.
“Everybody in the lineup is capable of using the entire field, but it’s just a matter of, are we willing to do it. And are we willing to just take what the pitcher give us.”
The Buckeyes rank inside the top-100 nationally in one category: home runs per game. Ohio State is averaging 1.15 long balls each outing and have hit 25 this season, sixth-most in the Big Ten. Zach Dezenzo has a team-best seven home runs and 21 RBIs while Drew Reckart has five homers and 10 RBIs, but is batting just .176.
The Husker pitching staff has allowed 21 home runs this season, eight of which came in the three-game series with Michigan.
The Buckeyes are averaging 6.5 runs per game while their pitching staff has a combined earned-run average of 5.07. The Huskers are averaging 5.1 runs while their pitchers have an ERA of 5.05.
Leading the way for Ohio State offensively is Marcus Ernst, who’s hitting .429 in 77 at-bats and has a team-high 33 hits and a .520 on-base percentage. Tyler Pettorini is the only other Buckeye batter hitting over .300 on the season as he’s sitting at .306 with 15 hits and four doubles, which is tied for second-most on the team.
Friday’s game is scheduled for a 5:05 p.m. Central Time first pitch. Shay Schanaman will get the ball in game one while Koty Frank will start Saturday and Dawson McCarville Sunday.