Consider it an I-told-you-so moment.
Luis Alvarado walked the first two batters he faced in the top of the sixth inning. They were sacrificed to second. And they scored on Alex Boxwell’s two-run single.
Boxwell also singled in two runs with one out in the top of the second inning, runners who had reached on singles, and those were the only runs Minnesota needed in its 5-1 victory against Nebraska at Hawks Field on Friday. Still, the sixth-inning runs changed the dynamic, including Alvarado’s pitch count, which reached 105 before he was replaced after the two walks to open the sixth.
Coach Darin Erstad said on Thursday Husker pitchers couldn’t afford to walk batters. After all, Minnesota came to town with a best-in-the-Big-Ten .308 team batting average.
Alvarado had walked only six all season, in 28.1 innings. He walked six on Friday in five-plus innings, striking out three and allowing five hits, all singles.
In marked contrast, Minnesota’s Reggie Meyer didn’t walk a batter in eight innings. He was efficient, throwing 108 pitches while allowing eight hits, all but one of them a single.
Scott Schreiber, who was 2-for-4, doubled his first at-bat in the second and scored Nebraska’s only run on Luke Roskam’s one-out single. The Huskers left nine runners on base.
“Just too many free bases, and they’re too good (of) an offensive ballclub to expect to give ‘em ‘free 90s’ like that and be successful,” Erstad said, basically repeating what he said Thursday.
“He probably just didn’t have his command that he could have.”
Meyer, who struck out five, was “good, but I thought we chased a lot of pitches down,” said Erstad. “I think he pitches in good angle, but I don’t think we . . .
“I thought we didn’t hunt (pitch) elevation as well as we could.”
Mike Waldron pitched four innings of four-hit relief for the Huskers, walking one – which came around to score. Jackson Rose pitched a scoreless ninth for Minnesota, also walking one.
Strong winds, which made 50-degree temperatures seem cold, magnified the problems.
“Wind blowing in, it’s a tough day to hit; it’s tough to generate offense,” Erstad said. “So you have to be able to bunt a little bit. We weren’t able to do that in the first inning, put a little pressure on ‘em. We just weren’t able to string anything together.”
Zac Repinski led off the game for Nebraska by reaching on an error, but Mojo Hagge couldn’t move him to second and flied to center, after which Angelo Altavilla grounded into a double play.
Counting the first game of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Surprise, Arizona, Nebraska has now lost the opening game in seven consecutive series.
“In a game like this, the wind’s blowing in, it’s cold, you know it’s going to come down to the details, and we haven’t been good with the details,” said Erstad. “When you have seven walks in a game and they have one, you’re going to lose. Both teams played pretty solid defensively.
“We had a chance there in the first inning where they make an error on the first batter and we don’t get a bunt down to put some pressure on the same guy that made an error . . . so those are the type of things in this situation (where) you have to capitalize on it and we didn’t.”
In short, I told you so, on Thursday.
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.