Nebraska and TCU met Sunday to conclude their series in Arlington, Texas. Nebraska was looking to salvage a game in what has been a disappointing series for the team. Game 3 started similar to the first 2, with TCU taking an early lead.
Nebraska actually caught a break as the 1st inning ended with a TCU runner trying to tag and advance to 2nd base, but was called out on the play. This occurred before a runner crossed the plate at home. So not only was the inning over, the 2nd run didn’t count, keeping it at 1-0 TCU.
In what has been a trend for the Huskers thus far in 2022, TCU was able to chase the starting pitcher for NU early, this time Dawson McCarville, scoring 3 runs in the 5th, off of a triple, single, and double to lead off the inning. This made it 5-1 as Nebraska turned the game over to the bullpen. Emmett Olson took the ball from Coach Will Bolt and continued what has been the most consistent part of the Huskers’ season thus far. He threw 4 innings of shutout baseball, only allowing 1 hit.
The pitchers were helped out by some great defense. Nebraska seems to be figuring itself out in that phase, after struggling the first 4 and a half games of the season. Cam Chick made another great catch in CF late in the game, and Brice Matthews made the best defensive play of the young season for Nebraska on a backhand deep in the hole at SS.
And if one Brice Matthews highlight is good, two is better! After the struggling short stop sat on Saturday, he came back with a vengeance on Sunday. Matthews provided most of the offense early in the game, with a double and run scored in the 3rd, before getting the Huskers back in the game with an off-balance solo shot in the 7th to make it a 5-2 game. Getting the sophomore back on track is going to go a long way in helping Nebraska come out of its slump.
Nebraska was able to manufacture another run in the 8th, before getting to TCU closer River Ridings, whom they had seen on Friday. A pair of singles to start the 9th inning from freshmen Josh Caron and Garrett Anglim brought the go ahead run to the plate in red hot Brice Matthews. Despite a long at bat, Mathews struck out looking on a perfect low and inside pitch from Ridings. After an infield fly by Gabe Swansen, Leighton Banjoff hit a sharp line drive off of the glove of Ridings, who could not locate the ball in time to throw anyone out.
It was at this point Griffin Everitt stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 out. After going down 0-2, Everitt put the ball in play with a hard hit ball to third base. The TCU third baseman was too far inside to go touch his own bag, and as he was going to throw to first, he bobbled the ball. After re-gripping, he threw late to first, where Everitt had already beaten the throw by a half step.
The umpire however, called Everitt out, ending the game in TCU’s favor, 5-3.
Will Bolt leapt out of the dug out and spiked his hat as he ran to first. He was thrown out of “the game” before reaching the umpire, whom Bolt ended up making contact with while arguing. Per NCAA rules, Bolt will miss the next game for being ejected after the conclusion of a game. He may also see additional games for making contact with an umpire.
This leaves the Huskers at a beyond disappointing 1-6 after 2 weeks. The bullpen, especially Koty Frank and Emmett Olson, has been the most reliable part of the team for the Huskers to date, which was to be expected. The defense seems to be rounding into form as well, having no real mistakes, and making quite a few good plays the last two games. While hitting has been up and down, the true glaring weakness remains starting pitching.
Through 7 games, NU starters have pitched a combined 20 innings. That is not going to be good enough to get Nebraska to its goal of hosting a regional. McCarville and Olson cut down on the walks, allowing only 2 on the day, which had been the biggest hinderance of the pitching staff. And the strikeouts by Nebraska hitters were down this game as well. So while the record seems foreboding, the team may be turning a corner. It will have to pick up the pace though, if it wants to pump up that non-conference record for the selection committee.
Nebraska will return to action March 4th and 5th, playing 2 doubleheaders, with a game vs Northwestern State and UT-Arlington each day in Arlington, Texas.