After a 2022 campaign marred by bad defense and an inability to put together clutch at bats, one of those came back around to visit the current version of the Nebraska baseball team. On opening night, the Huskers again struggled on offense. Of Nebraska’s 5 hits, 2 were infield hits, and 1 was off of a check swing. Combine that with 7 walks and 2 hit by pitches leading to exactly zero runs, and that is going to put a lot of pressure on the pitching staff, even if that is expected to be the rock for the team going into the season.
In the first inning the pitchers went as expected, San Diego’s James Sashin struggled, walking 3 straight batters with 2 outs, before Husker first baseman Will Walsh drilled a ball right at the Toreros’ center fielder for the final out. Nebraska’s Ace Emmett Olson, on the other hand, made quick work of San Diego, going 1-2-3 with a strikeout.
It looked like Nebraska would get things going in the second, as speedy Casey Burnham was hit by a pitch. Brice Matthews then hit a 2-out single, but Burnham was thrown out trying to go first to third. It looked as if he held up a step to check if Matthews was safe on the play, which ended up costing him. San Diego would take the momentum off that defensive play into the bottom of the inning. After a lead off walk to the ever dangerous Kevin Sim, the Toreros used a single and a double to get out to a 2-0 lead.
The Huskers again put pressure on the Toreros in the 3rd by way of 2 walks, but came away with nothing. Olson then gave up a lead off triple down the right field line, and followed it up with a HBP to get himself in trouble. This time though, he was able to right the ship. After a pickoff of the runner on first, he struck out the batter on the next pitch before inducing a pop out to end the inning.
Nebraska finally broke through in the 4th. Singles by freshman Dylan Casey and Garret Anglim set the stage for Brice Matthews. He delivered with a 2 run double to the left field wall, to tie the game at 2-2. After that hit, San Diego turned to freshman reliever Mikiah Negrete, and he and his counterpart Olson took the game over for a stretch.
Brand new ballgame.@BriceMatthews5 ties it up with an RBI double. pic.twitter.com/cUiLC0r9TP— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) February 18, 2023
The game turned in the bottom of the 6th. All-WCC 1B Kevin Sim stepped up to face Olson, and swiftly deposited a fastball over the left field wall, ending the night for Olson, as he exited his first start with 5 strikeouts over 5.1 innings, but gave up the 3 earned runs in the loss. San Diego would add another run in the 7th, as a walk to the number 9 hitter in the order (another cardinal sin) came all the way around to score.
Nebraska would cut the lead in half in the 8th, by finally capitalizing on a Torero mistake. Their own 9-hole hitter Casey Burnham reached on the games only error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a check swing single from Anglim. And it looked like it was all going according to plan as Caleb Hawkins sat down the first 2 San Diego batters quickly and got to a 3-2 count.
.@garrettanglim with an RBI single in the eighth.— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) February 18, 2023
Two away for the top of the NU order. pic.twitter.com/wXfQelsR7G
It was at this point Coach Will Bolt called the umpires attention to the bat being used. The umpires, after a brief huddle, found nothing wrong with the bat. The next pitch was a borderline pitch on the black that was called a ball, and that was all the Toreros needed. A wave of hits washed over the Huskers by way of a single, 2-RBI double, and an RBI single. Those opened up the game to a score of 7-3, which would end up being the final.
What We Saw
While inability to bring home free passes plagued the Huskers (10 runners were left on base), it was walks which provided San Diego momentum to open up scoring in multiple pivotal points throughout the game. Other than the solo home run, it was a walk that started each of the other 3 innings San Diego scored in.
Another interesting tidbit was other than the Sim home run (sounds like a computer game), a lot of the production was from new guys, whether transfers or freshmen, for the Toreros. Mikiah Negrete provided 3.1 innings of crucial relief. Austin Smith went 4-4 with 2 RBI. While for Nebraska, Dylan Carey was the only new face with a hit in the game. And while Matt Garza looked ok in his outing, he gave up an unnecessary run with the 2 out walk to the number 9 hitter.
On to the Next Game
The best thing is about baseball, is you don’t get a week to sulk about mistakes, you go right back out there and play. So join us for game 2 as the Huskers look to even the series with San Diego, Saturday at 7pm CT. Catch your first look at Jace Kaminska, the hard throwing Wichita State transfer who brings a lot of experience and upside to the Nebraska rotation.