Shades of 2006, maybe? That remains to be seen. But 11 years ago, also on June 2, the Nebraska baseball team left Husker fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
The Huskers were a top regional seed that Friday, the No. 6 national seed. And they were playing at Hawks Field against Manhattan – as in the Bronx.
Manhattan won, 4-1, behind pitcher Chris Cody, who threw a complete game. Nebraska left 10 runners on base, including six in scoring position.
The next day, the Huskers lost to San Francisco, 5-1. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The comparison need go no further than Friday June 2, 2017, when the second-seeded Huskers lost to third-seeded Yale in the first game of the Corvallis, Oregon, Regional, 5-1.
Yale’s Scott Politz pitched a complete game, his seventh of the season – but only the second to go nine innings. He allowed six hits, all singles, struck out six and walked four.
Nebraska stranded nine runners, but eight of those nine didn’t reach until two were out.
“We had no answer for his cutter,” Husker Coach Darin Erstad said of Yale’s sophomore right-hander. “He was pounding the fastball away and mixing that little cutter off of that.”
Politz mixed in “an occasional breaking ball,” said Erstad.
Yale scored the only runs Politz needed in the first inning, when the first three batters singled against starter Jake Meyers, and then after a strikeout – the first of 11 by Meyers and Robbie Palkert, who entered the game with two out in the sixth – the Bulldogs got a two-run single Griffin Dey.
Meyers and Palkert didn’t walk any batters, but Yale had 12 hits.
The Huskers responded with a run in the bottom of the first, when Meyers led off with a single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Luis Alvarado, who went 2-for-4.
Yale’s Andrew Herrera canceled that run with a home run to lead off the second, and Politz took care of the rest. Nebraska managed only three hits over the final six innings.
“They grinded out at-bats. They weren’t trying to do too much, stayed in the middle of the field and just kept putting pressure on us and adding on,” said Erstad. “At the end of the day, I can’t remember the last time we were out-competed. And it stings me to say we were out-competed today.”
The Huskers will play the loser of Friday night’s second game between host Oregon State, the top national seed, and Holy Cross, which lost five of six to Yale this season.
Erstad wasn’t ready to name a Saturday starter. Jake Hohensee and Derek Burkamper were the first two starters during Big Ten play. But Meyers was moved up in the rotation.
The situation was similar in 2006, with the added insult of being a national seed playing at home, before a capacity crowd of 8,063. So similar, but not the same.
Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. (CT) start, and Nebraska will have an opportunity to make this comparison meaningless.
“You’ve got a few choices. You can pout about it and go in your room and feel sorry for yourself . . . you quit or you can fight,” Erstad said. “Like I told our guys . . . we’re not the most talented group in the world, but these guys have got after it all year and I expect nothing else than going out there and (seeing) an angry bunch of guys tomorrow.”
The Huskers have “got to find a way to win four games,” he said. “That’s still my mindset. That’s our mindset, and we’re going to go down swinging.”
The loss was Nebraska’s third in a row, something that hasn’t occurred since the second series of the season at Surprise, Arizona – with two of the three losses to Oregon State.
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.