The only thing that kept Nebraska baseball from being completely swept in its season-opening series may have been its own time constraints.
San Diego beat the Huskers in the first three games of the series, leading into Monday’s bizarre finale. After Nebraska lost a 4-0 lead and then came back from down 10-4 to grab its own six-run advantage, the Toreros put together a six-run effort in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie it back up.
After Nebraska’s eighth pitcher of the contest entered and ended the inning, the game was over. Prior to the start of the game, it was determined that no new innings would be started after 5 p.m. Central Time due to accommodate the Huskers’ travel plans. As a result, they didn’t lose the fourth game, but still exited San Diego without a single win.
Pitching was a major point of Nebraska head coach Will Bolt’s frustrations about the series as a whole. Those issues were illustrated well in the final matchup, as San Diego’s 16 runs came on just seven hits. Eight Toreros were walked, and another three were hit by pitches on Monday. Fifth-year pitcher Shay Schanaman opened the bottom of the seventh by walking two batters and hitting two, followed by senior Mason Ornelas taking the mound to give out another walk.
“The simplest thing you could do as a pitcher is just throw the ball over the plate or else you don’t deserve to be on the mound,” Bolt said on Huskers Radio Network after the tie. “We were absolutely abysmal at that out of the bullpen all weekend, and guys that have done it in the past too, guys that have shown the ability to throw strikes … if we just throw it over the plate, we win that game.”
San Diego drew 20 walks and was hit by 10 pitches through the series, with 19 of those 30 total coming in the final two games. To some extent, Nebraska was crushed late in each loss.
The Toreros scored first on Friday, but Nebraska tied it up at 2-2 in the fourth inning. That score lasted until the sixth inning, when Husker starting pitcher Emmett Olson’s final pitch of the night was launched for a solo home run by Kevin Sim. Olson allowed five hits in his 5.1 innings of work, and the three relievers to come after him let up the same number. Michael Garza allowed another run in the sixth inning, making it a two-run differential.
In the eighth inning, the Huskers produced a two-out RBI single to make it a one-run game but the frame ended when Brice Matthews struck out thanks to a pitch clock violation. San Diego essentially closed the door in the bottom of the inning, adding three more scores. All of those came with two outs as well, and the first baserunner came thanks to a walk.
Nebraska’s offense left 10 runners on base in that game, and stranded eight more in another three-run outing Saturday. This time, it tied the game up in the eighth inning with a two-run homer from sophomore Josh Caron. San Diego once again had a productive bottom half of the eighth, scoring two runs with the help of two walks and a wild pitch.
Each of the first three games featured the Husker starting pitcher giving up a couple early runs and otherwise doing well until their final inning. Olson and Jace Kaminska allowed a third run in the sixth inning, but freshman Caleb Clark’s exit on Sunday ended up even more disastrous.
Nebraska led 8-2 entering the middle of the fifth inning in the third game. Clark had allowed Sim’s third homer of the series, but otherwise was shutting down the Toreros. That changed in the bottom of the fifth, as he loaded the bases with one out thanks to a single, hit-by-pitch and walk. A pitching change was made at that point, but Brett Sears couldn’t get the Huskers out of the jam. With a walk, double and single, San Diego scored five runs in the inning to cut its deficit to 8-7 and tied it at 9-9 in the sixth.
The next two innings were scoreless, but not without significance. A Nebraska batter was ruled out for leaning into a hit-by-pitch in the top of the seventh, and when the call wasn’t reciprocated for a San Diego player being hit in the bottom frame, Bolt was upset enough to be ejected.
The head coach said at the end of the series Monday that the only ending that could be more crushing than the team’s tie was being walked off, and that was what Nebraska experienced a day prior. After a balk from Garza put a runner in scoring position, San Diego’s Angelo Peraza clinched a series win for the Toreros.
All of that led to Monday’s matchup of massive runs. The Huskers used four pitchers in San Diego’s nine-run fourth inning, and none did especially well.
There are some positives to be taken away from a winless opening series, such as Dylan Carey’s strong start. The freshman hit two home runs and went 8-for-17 at the plate overall in four games. Nebraska had two five-run innings on Monday, and the opponent was an NCAA Regional team last season. The Huskers will hope to take those silver linings and turn them into a stronger showing in the upcoming series against South Alabama.
“I told the guys after the game last night that we’re facing a good team, they’re a championship ball club, they have a championship mentality and we’re still trying to find that identity and what we’re going to be as a team,” Bolt said Monday. “But I did tell them after the game, the back-and-forth, the fight, the intensity that we showed yesterday, it’s going to go somewhere and I still feel that way about this team.”