LINCOLN -After Friday’s scheduled series opener was rained out, Nebraska (10-8) wasn’t able to respond in the first game of their shortened series against Northwestern State (11-7) on Saturday.
The Huskers led 2-0 after the second inning, but wouldn’t score for the remainder of the game, and fell to the Demons 6-2 on a cloudy, cool day at Haymarket Park.
The thermometer read 40 degrees at first pitch.
“It’s not necessarily the greatest day to play baseball,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “You know it’s going to be who grinds it out more and who takes care of the baseball better. We came out good, I thought, but they brought in their reliever in and did a really nice job of mixing his pitches.
Senior Danny Hlad (2-0) was the winning pitcher for Northwestern State, tossing 4.1 innings of middle relief. He struck out two of the 17 batters he faced and allowed no runs on six hits.
The Huskers had several opportunities, tallying 14 hits on the afternoon. None of them, however, were for extra bases.
Nebraska also stranded ten runners on base and were 3-for-13 (.231) with runners in scoring position.
“We had the bases loaded, one out (in the bottom of the fourth),” Erstad said. “In a matter of two pitches, we’re out of the inning, trying to score on a wild pitch and a strikeout.”
With the bases juiced and only one out in the bottom of the fourth, a wild pitch during a Zac Repinski at-bat prompted Jaxon Hallmark to try and score from third, but he was cut down for the second out.
Repinski then struck out looking on the next pitch to end the frame.
Mojo Hagge, who led his team offensively going 3-for-5 at the plate with an RBI, said the team’s approach was solid throughout the day. They just couldn’t come through when they needed to.
“It’s obviously frustrating as a team when you go out and we had 14 hits and we still only put up two runs,” Hagge said. “It’s just executing when we need to. We’ll see how things go tomorrow. Come out with a fire.”
Senior Luis Alvarado made the start on the mound for Nebraska and was fairly solid, lasting five innings and striking out three batters. He allowed seven hits and only one earned run.
Junior Nate Fisher came in to relieve Alvarado in the sixth inning, and was out there for 3.2 innings, but his record on the season dropped to 1-3.
In those 3.2 innings, Fisher allowed seven hits and five runs with only two of those being earned. He had no strikeouts or walks.
Alvarado didn’t have his most dominant stuff on Saturday, but after throwing 115 pitches in seven innings against Cal Poly eight days ago, Erstad thought it best to not stretch him too far.
“(Alvarado) threw quite a few pitches last week,” Erstad said. “I know he had an extra day of rest, but he’s going to have one less day of rest heading into conference play next week. So, we wanted to make sure we didn’t catch him out there on a 30-pitch inning or something and end up getting him (worn out) two weekends in a row before conference.
“That was kind of the plan all along, and you know, it’s one of those things where Nate is going to have to find a way to get some people out.”
Most of the damage came at the worst time for Nebraska; in the top of the 9th. Fisher led off the frame by hitting a batter, then an error at first base by Repinski and then a single by Demons’ third baseman Sam Taylor loaded the bases with no outs.
A sac fly and a two-run RBI single extended Northwestern State’s lead to 6-2 heading into the last half of the ninth.
Northwestern State finished the day with 15 hits, and laid down three successful bunts on Saturday, including one for an RBI to take a 3-2 lead in the seventh.
“Bunting, bunt defense, we work on that more than anything,” Erstad said. “That’s just disappointing to see that falter like it did. We’re making too many mistakes from time to time, and it’s costing us.”
Nebraska plays the series finale against Northwestern State on Sunday at 11:05. The Huskers will start senior Matt Warren (2-0) on the mound.
“Quick turnaround,” Erstad said. “We’ve got an 11 o’clock game and, you know, it’s one of those things where we have to hit the reset button and get back on it, but again, I just remind them of the foundation of things we do, and I told them, the number one thing we write down is we don’t get beat by bunting. We take that away, and to see that happen is very frustrating.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.