Coach Erstad is trying to figure out how to hold the fire to his team's feet. Photo by Dennis Hubbard.
While most of us were fixated on our tv's as the NCAA Basketball Tournament presses on, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-7) finished up their series with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (10-10). After taking game three and the series 11-4, the Huskers let their youth show through as they stumbled in game four, losing 6-5 and letting the chance for a sweep slip away.
As conference play draws near, I think we have a decent feel for what this team is: pretty talented, a lot of potential, but young and prone to let downs. After winning the first three games of the Louisiana Tech series by a combined score of 42-9, I'd say its not unreasonable to say NU probably should've won game four with ease as well. Being a burned out student on spring break, I wasn't able to attend the game, but I'd put pretty big money on that particular NU effort looking a lot like the 4-0 loss to Cal.Game 3 of the series looked very much like games 1 and 2. Nebraska used a massive offensive outbreak paced by three Husker home runs and a ridiculous 5/5 outing by Josh Scheffert to bury a respectable offensive day from the Bulldogs. Tom Lemke (2-1) started for the Huskers while Jamie Gilley (1-2) started for LaTech. Lemke pitched for three and two thirds innings, giving up three hits and a single run. Brandon Pierce and Dylan Vogt followed with four and a third innings pitched surrendering just one more run. Dexter Spitsnogle was brought in to finish the game in the ninth and struggled, giving up three hits and two runs in the top of the 9th. Nevertheless, NU was able to easily hold on due to a stellar offensive effort. Michael Pritchard, Josh Scheffert, Chad Christensen, and Kurt Farmer went a combined 11/13 with three home runs and seven runs batted in, giving NU the lift it needed in an 11-4 win.
W: Tom Lemke, NU (2-1)
L: Jamie Gilley, LTU (1-2)
Game 4 was a frustrating one for NU as they had little trouble getting base runners on, but couldn't bring them home, stranding 12 through the game. Tyler Niederklein started for the Huskers, giving up four runs through four innings pitched. Reliever Luke Bublitz would surrender two runs in the top of the 5th, giving LaTech the final 6-5 margin, resulting in Bublitz being charged with the loss. Relievers Aaron Bummer and Travis Huber also saw action, combining for three innings pitched, shutting out the Bulldogs in that time. It would not be enough, however, as NU repeatedly stranded runners on a day that a Pat Kelly home run would be the highlight. Also of note was Josh Scheffert drawing two walks and getting two base hits in four at bats, making it 12 consecutive reaches for him.
W: Caleb Dudley, LTU (2-0)
L: Luke Bublitz, NU (0-1)
S: Jeb Stefan, LTU (1)
12: Consecutive reaches by Josh Scheffert.
12: Runners left on in game four by NU.
1: Number of innings in which NU scored all of their runs on Sunday. Offensive consistency remains a concern
An overall solid series win by the Huskers against a decent opponent.
NU continues to show explosive offensive capability.
We've seen some solid relief pitching from Aaron Bummer, Dylan Vogt, and Travis Huber, all of whom are difficult to score on.
If NU wants to claw its way back to being a top 25 program, games like Sunday can't happen. LaTech is not a terrible team, but NU is clearly much better, and cannot lose games to inferior teams. Maintaining consistency and motivation is an ongoing challenge for Darin Erstad. Until that gets get squared away, we will continue to see losses like game four.
Player of the Series:
Josh Scheffert, Nebraska. I've mentioned it a number of times, but Scheffert's on a tear right now. He improved his batting average by 50 points this weekend.
The Huskers next game is actually right now as they lead Northern Colorado 9-1 in the top of the 5th.