It was a tough night to be a fan at Hawks Field on Tuesday, with the temperature dropping into the mid-40s, light rain and a 20-mph wind out of the north.
It was also a tough night to be an Omaha pitcher.
Nebraska had three home runs among 10 hits, including a grand slam by Jake Schleppenbach in a seven-run fifth inning, and defeated the Mavericks 13-2.
Officially, 1,652 were on-hand, but a majority had left by the time Mitch Steinhoff, the fifth pitcher used by Husker Coach Darin Erstad, got the final out – for the record, a fly ball to center.
Sophomore right-hander Ethan Frazier got just the second start of his Nebraska career, the first when the Huskers defeated Omaha 3-1 in Papillion, Nebraska, three weeks ago, and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing four hits and one walk and striking out two to earn his first victory.
“He pounded the zone. For not being out there a ton, he only had one walk,” said Erstad. “It’s tough when you don’t have a lot of reps, but he did a nice job tonight. Obviously, when we have some guys banged up pitching-wise, we needed him to go a few innings and he did that.”
The Huskers led 1-0 when Frazier pitched his final inning, but Luke Roskam’s third home run of the season, with two on, provided breathing room. The lead turned into more than breathing room the next inning as Scott Schreiber hit a two-run home run before Schleppenbach’s bases-loaded shot.
Sixteen Huskers got at least one at-bat, with eight getting hits, the first of their college careers for redshirt freshman Ben Klenke and sophomore Alex Henwood. Klenke got his second career start, in right field. He also started the season-opener against UC Riverside.
“I wish we had more games to get those guys reps, but gosh, it’s hard to do that,” Erstad said, not only of Klenke and Henwood but of other back-ups as well. “We have a lot of guys that have worked hard and earned the right to get a chance to play. It’s just hard to get ‘em in there.”
Schleppenbach’s home run, like Schreiber’s on a 1-2 count, was the third of his career, all this season.
“He doesn’t smile very often, but he was smiling,” said Erstad.
The senior second baseman was coming off a 0-for-11 weekend at Minnesota.
“But his defense (there) was just unbelievable,” Erstad said.
As Erstad reached the dugout after talking to his team on the field following the final out, a fan congratulated him on his 200th coaching victory at Nebraska.
Erstad seemed a bit perplexed. And his answer to a reporter’s question about it minutes later was predictable. He “had no clue,” Erstad said with a laugh about 200 victories.
“I really don’t have much to say about that.”
No doubt, his attention was already on this weekend’s Big Ten series at Ohio 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.