The Husker offense never found success against Illinois’ pitching staff on Friday night as Nebraska dropped the first of a three-game series to the Illini in Champaign, 8-1.
Nebraska came into the game with a .245 team batting average, which ranked 273rd in the nation. The struggles at the plate continued on Friday as the Huskers mustered just six hits and batted only .188 as a squad. Illinois, on the other hand, had a team average of .368 in the win and racked up 14 hits.
On top of the offensive woes, the Huskers didn’t get a strong outing from their starting pitcher, either. Shay Schanaman, a native of Grand Island and a team captain, lasted just 3.1 innings and gave up nine hits and seven runs, six of which were earned.
The loss drops Nebraska’s overall record to 19-28 and its Big Ten mark to 7-12. The loss doesn’t help the Huskers’ chances at making the eight-team conference tournament. They came into Friday tied with Northwestern for ninth in the standings. Northwestern, however, lost 14-8 to Purdue on Friday night and are 7-12 in the Big Ten, too.
Nebraska got off to a strong start in the top of the second inning when Josh Caron, a freshman from Wisconsin, came through with a two-out RBI single past the third baseman and shortstop to put the Huskers up 1-0.
The good vibes quickly departed from there, however.
Schanaman got in trouble in the second when he loaded the bases and saw the game tied at 1 after a Core Jackson throwing error at short. Jackson, a freshman from Canada who usually mans second base, is playing at short now following the injury to Brice Matthews, who tweaked a knee in pregame warmups last weekend at Minnesota. Schanaman worked out of the jam, though, and kept the Illini at only one run by forcing a groundout to first.
Schanaman didn’t get out of the trouble that found him in the third, however, and it resulted in a four-run inning for the Illini.
Illinois started the inning by connecting on three consecutive singles, the last of which was an RBI single off the glove of Colby Gomes at first. The next batter, Taylor Jackson, knocked out his sixth home run of the season, a three-run shot, over the left-field wall to put the Illini up 5-1.
Schanaman’s night came to an end in the fourth after a couple hard-hit doubles from the Illini put them up 6-1 and knocked Nebraska’s starter out of the game after just 3.1 innings. Schanaman struck out two batters and walked two more.
Mason Ornelas came on in relief and gave his team a solid 4.1 innings of one-run baseball. Ornelas, a Texas A&M transfer, struck out one, walked one and forced six flyouts with five groundouts.
Nebraska was able to tack on two runs in the ninth, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make a difference. The Huskers loaded the bases thanks to a Griffin Everitt plunk, a single from Max Anderson and a walk from Gomes. Jackson then cut Illinois’ lead to 8-3 with a two-run single to right field.
Nebraska struck out 12 times. Jackson went 2-of-4 at the plate while Garrett Anglim, Anderson, Leighton Banjoff and Caron all collected a single.
Saturday’s game two is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.