A poor fifth inning made the difference twice in Nebraska’s doubleheader Saturday, as the Huskers lost back-to-back games to Colorado State.
They opened the first day of the Big Red Fall Classic with a 10-5 loss to the Rams, followed by a 5-1 defeat. Nebraska recorded four errors in the first game and two in the second, although it had plenty more mistakes that didn’t show up in that category.
Head coach Rhonda Revelle said postgame that she didn’t feel like any area of the game clicked for the team on the day, and they’ll have to learn from it.
“That’s what the fall is for, right,” Revelle said. “If we can use this day and learn from it, feel the sting of it, not beat ourselves up for it but really try to learn the lesson of today.”
Despite the run total in the first game, the Huskers struggled offensively. Nebraska recorded just one hit all game, with runners getting on base mainly through errors, walks and being hit by pitches.
The pitching and fielding was also poor, and that started in the first inning. Sarah Harness started on the mound for the Huskers, walking the first batter she faced. After a foul out, Colorado State scored the first run on an error, hitting a fly ball to left field that was dropped. Two batters later, Danielle Serna hit a two-run homer.
The Huskers exited the opening inning down 3-1, scoring due to an error, and the next two innings went by scoreless.
Colorado State extended its lead in the fourth inning with Kaylin Kinney pitching. Hitting a two-out, two-RBI double to make it 5-1. The bases were loaded on that at-bat, by way of an error, walk and hit-by-pitch.
In the bottom of the fourth, though, the Huskers also had the bases loaded with one out through two walks and a hit-by-pitch. Nebraska took advantage, scoring a run on a fielder’s choice and another on a passed ball.
Billie Andrews secured her third walk, bringing up Courtney Wallace with two outs. She hit a fly ball to shallow center field, and it dropped after the sun appeared to cause the outfielder to lose sight of the ball. Two runs scored to tie the game, and it was counted as Nebraska’s first hit.
The tie didn’t last for long. Harness came back in at pitcher to start the fifth inning, giving up a leadoff single. Nebraska had two fielding errors after that, the second bringing in two runs.
Harness followed that up by hitting a batter to put two runners on, then giving up a three-run homer to make it 10-5. That forced the Huskers to make a pitching change. Freshman Kendall Mangel finished the inning and the game without the team giving up another run.
However, the Nebraska offense didn’t respond, only recording two baserunners in the final three frames on a hit-by-pitch and error.
Nebraska’s performance was far departed from what it had shown up until Saturday. The Huskers were yet to be credited with a single error in their four exhibitions — although the box score for the Creighton matchup is unavailable — and they had allowed just six total runs in that span. They scored double-digit runs in three of those four exhibitions, and had nine hits in a 5-4 win over Kansas.
“This is the first day we’ve had critical errors in critical moments,” Revelle said. “We had runners on base, didn’t have clutch hits.”
The second game had a much slower start, with both teams still scoreless entering the bottom of the fourth inning. But just like the day’s opener, the Huskers had their biggest offensive breakthrough in that frame as a result of Colorado State’s shortcomings, followed by their own defensive letdown.
Nebraska had already topped its hit total from the first game, and Mya Felder added to it with a leadoff single. Brooke Andrews reached on a fielding error with one out to put pinch runner Dakota Carter in scoring position.
The inning looked as if it could end without a run when Kinney hit a ground ball to the shortstop, who flipped it to the second baseman for a double play chance. Instead of ending the inning, the throw sailed by the first baseman, allowing Carter to come in for the go-ahead run.
The fifth inning was a rough one for Kinney and the defense. The pitcher started well, striking out two of the first three batters while the other reached base by a fielding error by Billie Andrews. She walked the next two though, loading the bases.
Colorado State’s next batter hit a ball to third base, and Sydney Gray missed the throw to first, allowing two runs to score. A third run came in on the next at-bat through a wild pitch.
Kinney pitched all seven innings, and Revelle noted the highs and lows that came with the performance.
“This last game Kaylin had eight strikeouts, that’s really great,” she said. “But you know we also gave up eight hits. So progress, but still work to do.”
The day closed quietly for Nebraska, as the Rams scored another run in both of the final two innings while keeping the Huskers at just one.
Revelle said the team’s talk following the game focused on the changes, either physically or mentally, they could make to potentially bring about a different outcome. While they aren’t happy with the loss, the Huskers are focused on progress.
“We’re competitors, right. And as competitors you don’t like to lose and you certainly don’t like to lose the way we played today, we just didn’t play well,” Revelle said. “But I don’t want to focus on not playing well. I want to focus on getting better and using how the game can teach us.”
The Huskers will close the Big Red Fall Classic and their fall exhibition schedule tomorrow, with one more game against Colorado State and the final match against Nebraska-Omaha.
“Of course we’d like to finish strong,” Revelle said. “I think that the whole thing about the fall is, you know, we try to play the best competition that we can in the fall, because we know that it’s going to inspire what we need to work on as we go into winter.”