Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Poor Opening Inning, Offensive Struggles Lead Huskers to Another Midweek Loss

May 03, 2023

Nebraska baseball dropped yet another midweek game Wednesday night, falling to North Dakota State 6-5.

The Huskers got down early, allowing the Bison to bat around and score five runs in the opening frame. That lead was extended to 6-0 in the top of the third, and it proved insurmountable. Nebraska hit four home runs in the contest, with the long ball accounting for all of its runs and over half of its seven hits, but there wasn’t much success at the plate besides that. The offense struck out 16 times, a season-worst mark.

Postgame, head coach Will Bolt called the team’s approach at the plate “selfish.”

“It was just very individualistic,” Bolt said. “Not much team takedown as far as just taking our walks when we needed to take them, just hitting the ball back hard through the middle. Just a lot of selfish at-bats.”

A poor start from Kyle Perry on the mound was why the Huskers couldn’t afford such a day on offense. North Dakota State started the game with back-to-back singles, followed by a three-run homer. The Bison loaded the bases with no outs after that, adding two more runs on sacrifice flyouts.

Perry finished the inning, retiring the batter who recorded the first hit, but was understandably taken out after that.

“He wasn’t ready to pitch, obviously,” Bolt said. “The stuff wasn’t good, the compete wasn’t good and wasn’t mentally there, to go get us off to a good start.”

Drew Christo pitched the next two innings, producing a 1-2-3 second inning before struggling in the third. Former Husker Jack Steil started off with a single, then advanced around the bases thanks to two wild pitches and a passed ball. Christo struck out three of the other four batters he faced that frame, but the one run was the eventual difference.

Nebraska got on the board in the bottom of the third, as Cole Evans and Brice Matthews hit back-to-back solo home runs. Griffin Everitt joined that party in the next inning, coming up with his own solo shot to make the score 6-3.

That’s where the score remained for almost the entirety of the final five innings, however. The Husker bullpen stepped up, as Jackson Brockett allowed a leadoff single in the top of the fourth before retiring the next three batters in his lone inning on the mound. Brockett, Brett Sears and Corbin Hawkins combined to sit down North Dakota State’s final 18 batters.

“They came in, did what they were supposed to do,” Matthews said postgame. “They shoved and kept us in the fight. That’s all we could ask.”

Nebraska’s offense couldn’t do the same. The Huskers did get a runner on base in each of the final five innings, but didn’t score again until the ninth. The best chances came late. In the seventh inning, they put two runners on with one out, with top hitters Casey Burnham and Max Anderson next up. North Dakota State pitcher Carson Jacobs had to work hard to get out of the inning, throwing 16 total pitches to that duo, but struck out both to keep the three-run advantage.

Gabe Swansen led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, but a flyout and double play followed.

In the last chance for the home team, Dylan Carey reached on a fielding error in the infield. Two batters later, Matthews hit his second home run of the game and team-leading 17th of the season. That brought some late hope, pulling the Huskers within a run, but Burnham struck out on three pitches to quickly end things.

The Huskers will end the regular season with a 4-4 record against Summit League teams, each foe with a record well under .500 and an RPI ranking currently above 200.

Their midweek struggles might not be as important as their standing in the Big Ten, but the upcoming conference matchup features a major challenge. Nebraska will take on Maryland on the road this weekend, a team which has entered D1Baseball’s top 25 rankings. The Terrapins sit atop the league standings and are second in the nation in home runs.

Despite currently being tied for third in the standings, Nebraska isn’t a lock to be among the eight teams that reach the Big Ten Tournament. Grabbing even just one win against the conference leaders could be crucial.

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Tags: Baseball