I dislike these games. Regardless of sport, whenever you play a Division II team, you're placed into a no-win situation. Prohibitive favorite against a fired up opponent. Roll and you've done what you should've done. Struggle and you fail to meet expectations. Lose and....well lets not think about it.
Nebraska (8-4) met up with the Lopers of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (5-7) today in chilly overcast conditions at Haymarket Park. For most of the day, the teams had little trouble getting men on the bases, but struggled to plate them. Nebraska scored a run in the 3rd inning and added three more in the 6th before UNK answered with one in the 7th, giving us the final of 4-1, Huskers.
More after the jump.Dexter Spitsnogle started the game for the Huskers. He performed capably through three innings for the Huskers as UNK would be shut out through the first third of the game, managing only two lead off singles against the senior transfer from Doane College. UNK starter Cory Ridenour did a nice job early on as well, shutting out the Huskers through the first two innings. Nebraska finally got some offense going in the bottom of the 3rd as Sam Stucky got on base with a one out double. A wild pitch would later advance him to third, and Richard Stock drove him home with a two out single, making the score 1-0, Big Red.
The 4th inning would bring two new pitchers into the game. Spitsnogle was replaced by Ryan Hander while Ridenour was pulled in favor of Michael Hahn. Hander struggled a bit in the 4th inning, giving up a double to Tommy Barnes then walking Alex Miller before getting out of the inning, but then got in rhythm and retired the Lopers in order in the 5th and 6th innings. Hahn was effective in two innings of service, giving up just one hit and yielding no runs. Hahn was replaced by Mike Loseke in the top of the 6th. Loseke would have a rough outing as Kale Kiser led off with a solo home run and Ty Kildow drew a four pitch walk. An attempted pick off of Kildow went awry, advancing him from 1st to 3rd. Austin Darby drove him home with a one out single. Sam Stucky later drew a walk and was driven home by Chad Christensen before UNK could get out of the inning. NU headed to the 7th leading 4-0.
Jeff Stovall was brought in by Nebraska in the top of the 7th. Stovall has struggled so far this year, and that didn't change today. Chase Saxton doubled into left field with the ball failing to leave the park by about a foot. He would be driven home by a Brandon Landanger single, cutting the Husker lead to 4-1. Stovall also owes a thank you to right fielder Ty Kildow who robbed lead off hitter Brian Wuest of a home run. Ultimately Stovall did get out of the inning with just one run allowed, but it was a pretty tough outing for him.
There was very little offense the rest of the way. Husker closers Aaron Bummer and Luke Bublitz looked very impressive in relief duty, shutting out Loper hitters in the 8th and 9th innings, icing the 4-1 win.
W: Ryan Hander (1-0)
L: Cory Ridenour (1-3)
S: Bublitz (1)
8: Nebraska's wins in the last 9 games after an 0-3 start.
12: The number of men Nebraska left on base. That wouldn't have cut it yesterday and it won't cut it this weekend against Cal.
Nebraska pitching: Holding UNK to one run was both important due to the defensive nature of the game and impressive considering UNK just came off of a 58 (!!!) run effort in their 4 game series with RMAC foe Colorado Christian.
Kiser's power hitting: Home runs in back to back games. Good seeing this from a guy who'd struggled at the plate coming into this week.
Too many men left on base. It kept this game from getting out of hand and would've cost NU the game against a stronger opponent.
NU looked a little flat today against a Division II opponent.
Can the Huskers keep their intensity throughout this massive home stand?
Players of the Game:
The Nebraska pitching staff. With the exception of the top of the 7th, UNK really struggled to get much going all day. Tip of the cap to the NU fielders as well.
Nebraska improves to 8-4 on the year, having won 8 of their last 9 games. The competition takes a big step up this weekend as Nebraska has a four game series against 9-2 #25 Pac-12 power California at Haymarket Park. The first game of that series will be at 1:35 on Friday.