Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Split Midweek Games Against Summit League Foes

April 26, 2023

Nebraska baseball split a pair of midweek games against Summit League opponents, following up a win over Omaha with a loss to South Dakota State.

The Huskers won 6-3 on Tuesday against the Mavericks, earning their first win of the season against an in-state opponent. They had lost twice to Omaha previously and once to Creighton. The expectation was to continue to take care of business against South Dakota State, but that didn’t happen Wednesday night at Haymarket Park.

Nebraska found itself down 4-0 early, and could never climb back in the eventual 8-3 loss. In terms of RPI, the game was the worst loss for the Huskers this season, a mark previously held by Omaha. South Dakota State came into the game ranked No. 261 out of 305 teams.

“Abysmal mindset,” head coach Will Bolt said after Wednesday’s loss. “Especially after really competing hard last night and the message being that we’re going to play like there’s no tomorrow. Again, they kicked our tails tonight. They did a lot right, but I don’t feel like we were even anywhere near championship mode tonight.”

This came in stark contrast to Bolt praising the team’s mindset Tuesday night in a more successful contest.

Playing on the road against Omaha, the Huskers started fast in front of a friendly crowd. In the second inning, freshman Dylan Carey hit a three-run homer with two outs to start off the scoring. He added one more RBI with a two-out single in the eighth inning that kept Nebraska in front by three runs.

As one might expect from a midweek matchup, the Huskers went through a few pitchers early. Starter Corbin Hawkins retired eight of the first nine batters he faced, but was pulled after allowing a pair of two-out singles in the third inning. That left freshman Jalen Worthley to face Mike Boeve, one of the best hitters in the country. Boeve hit an RBI single, and Worthley exited after five pitches and one batter faced.

Drew Christo then took the mound. The sophomore’s first seven appearances this seasons all went less than two innings, although he was successful in most of those outings. This time, his stay lasted four innings. He nearly allowed another run or two to score against the first batter he faced, but a close foul ball call provided the room for Christo to record the inning-ending strikeout.

Christo struck out seven more Mavericks, shutting down the opponent until his night ended in the seventh inning. He allowed a leadoff double on a fly ball misplayed by the outfielder, and soon after, a sacrifice fly brought in the run. Jake Bunz took over to throw two pitches and end the inning.

At that point, Nebraska was up 4-2, but Carey’s hit and a Brice Matthews home run in the final two innings made it 6-2. Omaha homered and then put runners on the corners in its final chance, but Shay Schanaman struck out the last batter to seal the win.

“With baseball, you got a lot of opportunities to bounce back and you know, this team’s been pretty good at that,” Bolt said postgame Tuesday. “And now, down the stretch, we need to show some some real consistency.”

That didn’t happen Wednesday. Jackson Brockett earned the start, coming off a good start against Northwestern and an unremarkable relief showing against Iowa. In the second inning of this game, he gave up a single and walk before a Drew Beazley triple scored both of those runners. Beazley scored on an RBI groundout, and Brockett allowed a home run to make it a four-run inning for the Jackrabbits.

For most of the game, the offense didn’t provide much help. The first two innings for the Huskers ended on double plays. They put runners on the corners with one out in the fifth inning, and loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. Nebraska didn’t convert those situations into runs either time.

By the start of the bottom of the seventh, South Dakota State extended its lead to 7-0. Brett Sears gave up two runs late in an otherwise good relief outing, while Kyle Perry also let up a score. It seemed Nebraska might’ve been on its way to a shutout, but two walks and three singles in the seventh inning changed that. Still, that wasn’t nearly enough, as the home team only managed a few walks over the final two frames.

South Dakota State’s victory was its 11th straight, although the rest of those wins came against below-.500 Summit League squads and average-at-best NAIA programs.

The bad loss doesn’t change Nebraska’s bigger picture heavily, though. An at-large postseason bid seemed out of reach after the team was swept by Iowa last weekend. The most realistic path to the NCAA bracket will be winning the Big Ten Tournament. To make the Big Ten’s field, the Huskers have to remain in the top eight of the standings, where they currently sit in a four-way tie for fourth place and are within a reasonable distance of ninth place.

This weekend’s series against Minnesota (11-28, 4-8 Big Ten) will obviously be important for the team, given that context. The head coach’s postgame comments indicated as much.

“The mindset is that we’re playing for our lives,” Bolt said of the upcoming weekend.

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Tags: Baseball