Photo by Eric Francis
Nebraska Baseball

Huskers Stomp Cal Poly In Saturday Doubleheader

March 10, 2018

During the sixth inning of game one of Friday’s doubleheader, Nate Fisher retreated to the team bathroom in the dugout.

No, nothing was wrong, and Fisher wasn’t hiding; he was trying to stay warm. Overcast skies meant cooler air for Nebraska’s 12:05 first-pitch against Cal Poly, but time was the real issue. Cal Poly’s defense took the field in the bottom of the sixth at 2:17 p.m. 

They didn’t leave the field until 2:57 p.m.

Forty minutes the Husker offense was on the field, peppering the Mustangs with run after run and coaxing through four Cal Poly pitchers on the way to a 13-run inning. Nebraska took that first game 22-3, then turned around and stomped the Mustangs some more 45 minutes later in a game two that ended 13-2. Nebraska (9-6) walked away with a 3-1 series victory over the Mustangs (6-10), feeling pretty good about itself.

“That was one of the better doubleheader days I’ve ever seen,” head coach Darin Erstad said. “You just rarely see a team keep that much pressure up for two games in a row.

“I’ve seen so many doubleheaders, you see a score like that [first game] and the next game it’s 3-2. They forget that you have to reset and remember why you had success. I thought our guys did a great job of that, we got our energy back up.”

In total, the Huskers popped off for 35 runs on 30 hits in 16 innings of work. Of the 16 Huskers that made a plate appearance, 12 of them logged at least one hit. The pitching wasn’t what it was in Friday’s 4-0 shutout — Fisher went five innings with four punch-outs and eight hits with one earned in the first game — but it didn’t need to be. Nebraska’s offense set the tone from the first at-bat of the day. Left fielder Mojo Hagge reached on a fielding error on the second pitch of the game, three pitches later second baseman Zac Repinski brought him home with an RBI double. Then, the floodgates opened. 

Three more in the first, five more in the second, then the 13-run sixth. Twenty-two runs isn’t a program record — the Huskers dropped a 50-burger on Chicago State in 1999 — and the 13-run sixth inning isn’t either, but both are easily season-highs. 

“From an offensive standpoint, just continue the pressure,” Erstad said. “I think our guys understand that we’re going to have to put some runs on the board this year and not just rely on winning 4-3 like we’ve been pretty good at over the last few years.”

Over the course of the two games, Nebraska faced 10 pitchers. Double digits. Odds are Cal Poly was asking fans sitting behind the dugout if they wanted to try their arm on the mound in between games. A fan might have had better success. 

There was a point in the second outing when designated hitter Jesse Wilkening actually broke an aluminum bat. The Husker bats were that hot. An aluminum bat. 

Third baseman Angelo Altavilla had never seen anything like that before, and it happened twice more; Wilkening broke the cap off another bat and center fielder Joe Acker broke a handle in the final frame of the Huskers’ day. 

“I don’t know what’s going on but I think it was just bad luck,” Altavilla said.

That didn’t seem to be something that existed for the Huskers on Saturday, though. Freshman Zac Luckey finally got a few at-bats and some time in the field, one of a number of younger guys Erstad was able to throw into the fray thanks to the blowout.

“I think just our morale was at a team-high,” Luckey said. “We were just really vibing with each other and having a lot of fun, no one was really stressed out or over-anxious to perform because we know what we can do against this team and we know we’re better.”

Altavilla said they’ve been waiting to “burst” out this year on offense, and it showed Saturday. It also took pressure off Nebraska’s pitching staff — “That might be the understatement of the year,” Erstad said. Fisher admitted he didn’t have his changeup, something Erstad confirmed, but he worked through his appearance with a combination of his slider and fastball. It proved to be a winning combination — his first of the year.

“He just kept grinding,” Erstad said. “You’re doing the math on a long day, if he comes out in the second inning, it changes a lot of things for the day but we were fortunate enough to let him grind through for us.”

Nebraska plays again on Tuesday at 1:35 p.m. CT against Northern Colorado (9-5). Asked if an offensive explosion could bleed over into that next outing, Erstad went the other way.

“Yeah it can also get you a little-inflated ego, too, where you think you’re better than you really are,” he said. “We have to remember what got us here. We have done a really good job, for the most part, this season of grinding out our at-bats, especially with two strikes, and now we’re finding some holes doing that.”

Altavilla said the same.

“I know we’re capable of a lot of things and I think it showed today but we’ve just got to be humble about our work this week knowing that we could lose a game or two coming up,” he said. “We’ve just got to stay confident in what we do.”

And what they did Saturday was light up a cold ballpark.

“Bats came out hot,” Fisher said. “That set the tone for the day.”

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