Two pitches. One by Kyle Perry and one by Koty Frank were the difference in the first game of the three-game series with the TCU Horned Frogs. Toss in an anemic offense and the inability to make a play in the clutch and you have a 4-1 win for the former Big 12 rival.
Getting a chance to play in a big-league ballpark, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, the Cornhuskers were perhaps in awe of their surroundings and forgot they had a game to play against 17th ranked TCU.
Despite the loss, starting pitcher Kyle Perry showed dramatic improvement over his disastrous outing last week. While there were a couple of occasions when he struggled with his control, he eventually took command of his pitches and had a solid outing on the mound, going 4.1 innings.
Perhaps most impressive were the eight strikeouts and his ability to spot his pitches in the last two innings. He also showed some toughness, battling back from a mistake to get a big K. However, one of his pitches had a high cost as hot hitting Horned Frog shortstop Tommy Sacco hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning for the first run of the game.
Nebraska had a number of chances as they put a runner on base in each of the first four innings, but failed to advance any of them past second base. TCU starter Austin Krob was never in serious trouble, mixing fastballs and sliders to keep the Husker hitters off balance, adding to their hitting woes in the early season.
Koty Frank came into the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth after Perry had thrown 89 pitches, giving up four hits with eight strikeouts and three walks. With runners on 2nd and 3rd after a sacrifice grounder by Luke Boyers, Coach Will Bolt opted to intentionally walk Brayden Taylor and pitch to freshman cleanup hitter, David Bishop.
Bishop singled sharply in a previous at-bat, and hit a laser foul on the first pitch served up by Frank. Two pitches later he hit a rocket that one-hopped the wall in rightfield, clearing the bases putting TCU up 4-0. That was the second of the difference-making pitches by a Cornhusker pitcher.
Krob continued his mastery of Nebraska hitters through six innings before giving way to Luke Savage in the seventh. Apparently, Cornhusker batters liked what they as Colby Gomes lased a single, followed by Savage drilling Griffin Everitt with a heater to the ribs. With two runners on Cam Chick, who has been cold at the plate thus far, laced a first pitch fastball for a single and scoring Gomes for the first Nebraska run of the game.
Just when it looked like the tide was starting to turn a bit, Savage got savage, striking out Bryce Matthews and Jason Caron back-to-back. Matthews, who had a stellar freshmen season a year ago, has only had one hit thus far in the season and is really pressing at the plate, chasing two Savage pitches that were clearly out of the strike zone.
Head Frog, Kirk Saarloos then brought in another reliever, Augie Mihlbauer to face pinch hitter Core Jackson, and promptly struck out the Canadian infielder. Nebraska’s first three batters reached base, and the next three struck out.
Teams do not win games if they do not put the bat on the ball when they have runners in scoring position.
The Cornhuskers had chances again in the 8th and 9th innings. They loaded the bases in the bases in the 8th and did not push across a run. In the ninth, they put two runners on, but again failed to plate a run against closer River Ridings. In the last three innings of the game, Nebraska stranded seven base runners. Ball game.
There is no doubt that Nebraska faced a quality team, as well as a legitimate Friday starting pitcher and closer. But despite solid pitching from Kyle Perry and Koty Frank, they could not get it done for the fourth time in five games.
Tomorrow afternoon Shay Schanaman will make his second start of the season with a 2:00 first pitch against the Horned Frogs.