It’s been that kind of weekend for the Nebraska baseball team. The seventh, and decisive, inning of the Huskers’ 5-3 loss to Iowa on Saturday night at Hawks Field is characteristic.
In the top half of the seventh, with the score tied at 2, one out and runners at first and third, the Hawkeyes attempted a squeeze play. Nebraska pitcher Matt Waldron, who had just replaced starter Derek Burkamper, fielded Mason McCoy’s bunt and threw to catcher Brady Childs for the out.
That left runners at first and second and two out. Husker fans in a crowd of 7,416 could breathe a little easier, but only for two pitches, a ball and a strike.
Iowa’s clean-up hitter, Jake Adams doubled to right center, driving in both runners. Then on a 1-0 count, the next batter, Robert Neustrom doubled down the right field line, driving in Adams.
With two swings, the Hawkeyes led 5-2.
Nebraska was set to respond in the bottom of the inning, however. With one out and the bases loaded – two of the runners by walk – Jake Meyers walked, forcing in a run. That brought clean-up hitter Scott Schreiber. With a 3-1 count, Schreiber grounded into a double play.
“We’ve been in position, in situations, to get that big hit, get some momentum and break it open the last two nights . . . and we haven’t done it,” Husker Coach Darin Erstad said.
In a 10-inning, 7-6 loss on Friday night, the Huskers left 14 runners on base. On Saturday night, they left nine. “They’ve made more plays than we have, bottom line,” said Erstad.
Iowa left 11 on base Saturday, but five of its 10 hits were doubles. In contrast, Nebraska managed only one extra-base hit, a double by Luis Alvarado, who went 2-for-3 and scored a run.
Alvarado also had a double in his 4-for-5 night on Friday. The Huskers’ only other extra-base hit on the weekend was a Jake Schleppenbach double.
“I think we’re getting some pitches to hit, (we) just haven’t done it and they have,” Erstad said. “That’s to their credit. When we’ve made a few mistakes, we’ve paid for them.”
Burkamper was charged with the loss, his third of the season against two victories. Nebraska drops to 20-13-1, including 4-3-1 in the Big Ten. Iowa improves to 22-11 and 5-3.
Erstad was asked if the missed opportunity in the seventh might have gotten into the heads of his players. “You’re looking too deep into it,” he said. “We play pitch-by-pitch here, so you play each pitch and you go to the next one.”
Meyers will throw the next pitch for Nebraska on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. The junior left-hander is 5-1 with a 2.25 earned-run average. Sophomore right-hander Cole McDonald (2-2, 5.34) is scheduled to start for Iowa.