The Nebraska baseball team was looking to learn from the mistakes it made losing the season opener to Sam Houston 5-8. Instead what it found was more of the same. Coach Will Bolt lamented the free passes given up by Husker pitchers, and the amount of good pitches that the hitters allowed to go by them, without lifting the bat off their shoulders.
While the pitchers solved their problem, only allowing 2 BBs on the game, the hitters had more of the same, not only striking out 8 times in the 7 inning affair, but also getting into bad counts that left them swinging defensively late in the count.
Just like Friday, Nebraska struck first. This time via an unearned run as Griffin Everitt reached base on a muffed throw. He then motored first to third on a 2 out base hit by freshman Luke Jessen, making his first start as a Husker. And was brought in by Luke Sartori’s RBI single.
It wasn’t long before Sam Houston did their damage in the 3rd, using a bunt, fielding error, multiple walks, sprinkled around a pair of RBI hits to take the lead 4-1. NU starter Shay Schanaman would get some help to finally end the inning on a couple of great catches by Husker right fielder Leighton Banjoff with multiple runners on base, keep the inning at 4 runs, 3 of which were earned.
Schanaman would last until the 5th inning, where he gave up a lead off triple. It looked as thought Husker reliever Ethan Bradford would strand the runner, striking out the first two batter he faced. But Sam Houston hitter Easton Loyd continued to be a thorn in the Nebraska pitchers’ sides, as he hit his 3rd RBI base hit of the series thus far, bringing the game to what would be its final margin of 5-1.
Needing an offensive spark, Coach Bolt changed up the lineup, and Hitting Coach Lance Harvell kept the hitters out to give them a little extra pep talk after the pitchers dispersed from the postgame team meeting. I imagine it went a little something like, “No more taking fastballs!”
I say that because the Nebraska came out mashing. Before most of the crowd was even back in the stadium, the Husker hitters used a pair of singles, a pair of doubles, a sac fly, and a walk to bat around in the top of the first, and take a 4-0 lead. This left a nice cushion for new Husker hurler, Dawson to make his debut.
McCarville was described by Coach Jeff Christy in the pregame as “Chance Hroch with a couple more MPH”, referencing last years senior transfer starting pitcher. McCarville looked the part early, seemingly out of the first inning in five pitches, before an errant throw left the door wide open for Sam Houston. And just like they have all series, the Bearkats took advantage. A pair of doubles brought them right back in the game, at 4-2.
Nebraska would answer right back in the 3rd, with Sam Houston pulling their starting pitcher after giving up 2 walks and a hit batter to start the inning. It was at this point Brice Matthews finally got on the board for the season, ripping a 2 RBI double to left center. Matthews is from the Houston area and had a lot of family in town, and you could feel the swell of support for the one time Sam Houston commit, when he finally connected for a base hit. The Huskers would end up adding 2 more runs on an error to bring the lead to 9-2.
McCarville made it through 4 innings only allowing 1 earned run, but with 80 pitches, the Huskers turned it over to another transfer, Mason Ornelas for the 5th. Ornelas retired 9 of the first 10 batters he faced, before running into trouble in the 8th. After giving up a walk and another batter reaching due to an error, Ornelas was touched up for a single and RBI double to cut the Husker lead to 11-5. True freshman CJ Hood came in to make his debut, freezing the next hitter on a nasty curve, before giving up a sac fly and a double himself, making it an 11-7 game.
Nebraska would push the lead again to 12-7 in the 9th before bringing on Senior Jake Bunz, a big part of the Husker bullpen last year, and in line to be an even bigger part this year. Bunz got the first batter to a 2-2 count before walking off the mound, covering his face, with an apparent elbow injury. He has already worked his way back from Tommy John surgery once as a collegian, Bolt said they will find out more in a day or two.
The Huskers would then bring in top recruit Drew Christo who completed the strikeout, but then hit a batter, and subsequently gave up a 2 run home run, the first for either team this series. Coach Bolt wasted no time in getting out of the dugout to bring in first baseman Colby Gomes to close out the 12-9 game, which he did in rapid fashion. This gave Nebraska their first win of the season, though there was very little celebrating compared to what would normally be taking place, due to the late game injury to one of the emotional leaders of the team. Let’s hope for the best for Jake Bunz!
Nebraska looks to tie the series on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 pm.