The excitement of Nebraska’s scoring explosion against Cal Poly over the weekend dissipated on a sunny but cool Tuesday afternoon as the Huskers fell to Northern Colorado 6-3 at Hawks Field.
Nebraska’s intensity was “fine,” Coach Darin Erstad said.
The problem was, “we haven’t been able to consistently play the baseball we want to as far as keeping guys off with free passes and then defensively,” he said.
Nebraska pitchers walked five and the Huskers were charged with three errors, all by shortstop Brison Cronenbold, leading to two of the runs.
Of equal concern was Nebraska’s inability to capitalize on eight Northern Colorado walks, including four to lead off innings – just one of those four came around to score.
In contrast, three of Northern Colorado’s runs were from lead-off walks, including what proved to be the winning run in the eighth and the first of two insurance runs in the ninth.
The eighth-inning run followed another walk, a sacrifice and a sacrifice fly.
“We’re just still trying to find our footing,” said Erstad.
“I think they’re trying too hard, and when you do that, kind of at the plate, you get going and you try to do too much, you struggle . . . I’ve seen guys trying to make plays that aren’t there. So overall, we’re just not playing good baseball on a consistent basis.”
The Huskers’ issues weren’t just pitching and defense. They managed only five hits, none for extra bases, and more to the point here, struck out 11 times, four on called third strikes.
Nebraska battled back from a 3-0 deficit with a three-run sixth, with no outs, fashioned with two walks – the first to Scott Schreiber leading off the inning – a hit batsman and Luke Roskam’s two-run single. But a double play and a called third strike ended the rally.
Schreiber went 3-for-4 to raise his average back over .300 (.323). His third hit gave him 200 for his Husker career. He wasn’t making too much of that, however.
“Two of ‘em weren’t . . . like I said before, I don’t want to be pessimistic,” Schreiber said. “A couple of those weren’t the hardest hit balls, but . . .”
The third hit was initially ruled an error on the shortstop but correctly changed.
What Schreiber told reporters after the game initially was essentially what his coach said.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball,” said Schreiber, “kind of flat, which is going to happen.
“You’re going to have games like that . . . just kind of a sloppy game, kind of hard to find positives. I don’t like being pessimistic but if you’re going to play like that, usually you’re going to come out on the losing side.”
Schreiber didn’t think there was any carryover from Saturday’s double-header against Cal Poly, in which Nebraska scored 35 runs and neither did Erstad.
“No, there was none of that,” Erstad said. “I thought they were fine that way.
“Again, you have your opportunities when they give you lead-off walks and you don’t take advantage of them, that’s what you get. And they took advantage of theirs.”
The Huskers (9-7) will play Northern Colorado (11-5) again Wednesday, with a 1:35 p.m. first pitch. Mike Waldron (0-1, 0.00) is set to start for Nebraska.
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.