I am not going to say “here we go again.” I am not going to say “we’ve seen this movie before.” I am not going to say “been there done that.” Unfortunately, for the second straight night, some of the same gremlins from last year are still showing up when the Nebraska Cornhuskers take to the field. Defensive miscues and a lack of situational hitting are the reasons that the Big Red sits at 0-2 starting out the season after dropping this game 5-3 to the San Diego Toreros.
Garrett Rennie, a right-handed Graduate Student, took the mound for the Toreros and promptly started the game by walking Brice Matthews but then basically handled the Cornhuskers until the 5th inning. In the first four innings, Rennie struck out six, sneaking breaking pitches across the inside corner of the plate to get Cornhusker hitters looking.
Jace Kaminska, a transfer from Wichita State throwing from the right side for Nebraska, struggled a bit in the first inning. James Arakawa led off with a single but was forced at second when the two-hole hitter Dustin Allen reached on a fielder’s choice. Two batters later, All-WCC first team first baseman Kevin Sim drove his second home run of the series deep to centerfield. Just like that, San Diego was up 2-0. After that, Kaminska settled down and at one point sat down 10 San Diego players in a row. He started the 6th with two strikeouts before plunking Sim and being pulled after giving up a hit to score Sim followed by a walk.
Nebraska finally got on the scoreboard in the fifth inning when Dylan Carey stroked a two out single, advanced to second on a passed ball, and then beat the throw home on a Garrett Anglim single to left. The Cornhuskers showed a spark in both the sixth and seventh innings starting each one with back-to-back singles. However, San Diego pitchers bowed their necks and did not allow any runs.
With the score 3-1 San Diego, Nebraska rallied in the eighth. With two outs, Southern Miss transfer Charley Fischer got his first hit of the season. Catcher Josh Caron then belted a Tristan LaMaison pitch out of the park for his first home run of the season. Tie ball game! Unfortunately, that was short-lived.
Former starter Shay Schanaman took the mound in the bottom of the eighth for the Big Red, starting off by striking out Jack Costello. He then walked Kevin Sim, which at the time did not seem like the worst thing that could happen, basically taking the bat out of his hands. The next hitter grounded out to first, with Sim advancing to second. With two outs, Schanaman then issued his second walk of the inning to Peraza, bringing up freshman Jack Gurevitch. For the second game in a row, the rookie came up big with runners on base, this time smoking a single that scored two, putting the Toreros up 5-3, which is where it ended as three Cornhuskers struck out in the ninth.
The Little Things
Nebraska’s lead-off hitters got on base six of the nine innings, and the team out hit San Diego eleven to six. However, eight Cornhuskers were left on base, most frustrating when the batters following them struck out, not even putting the ball in play. San Diego did just the opposite. On two occasions, Torero batters unselfishly drove the pitch the opposite way through gaps in the infield to score runners. They capitalized on Nebraska mistakes and executed offensively. Nebraska did not.
While Nebraska only had one official error, three of the Torero runs came as a result of sloppy play. In the first inning, Max Anderson had the tag on Dustin Allen stealing second two foot away from the bag, only to have the ball squirt out of his glove. In the sixth inning, Brice Matthews failed to look the ball into his glove on a Josh Caron throw on a Kevin Sim steal. Sim advanced to third when the ball rolled into right field, and scoredwhen the next hitter slapped a single through the 5.5 hole. Later in the game after the Big Red had fought back to tie the game 3-3, a Shay Schanaman pitch in the dirt went all the way to the screen, scoring Angelo Peraza from third.
Starting the season 0-2 is not the end of the world, nor should it be a huge surprise considering the competition. San Diego played in the regionals last season and has recruited very well, as was evident by the contributions of freshmen relievers and a couple of position players that have not been intimidated by the bright lights. Toss in the fact that they also have spent a majority of their time practicing outside while Nebraska was for the most part working indoors and you have a tough way to open the season. Nebraska showed tonight that they can hit the ball. They just need to do it when they have runners on base.
Caleb Clark, a highly touted freshman pitcher from Canada will take the mound Sunday for game three. Hopefully the offense will get off to a fast start and put some runs up while he works through the jitters that are likely to come. First pitch is slated for 3:00 CST.