After a couple of big wins the previous two days, a positive vibe surrounded the Nebraska baseball club as they took the field on what has become known as Championship Sunday. However, wearing the black uniforms appeared to be a bad omen for a dark start for boys from Nebraska on Day 3 of the Cambria Classic taking on defending national champion Mississippi Rebels.
Playing as the visitors, the Cornhuskers were not able to put a number on the board in the top of the first in spite of a shaky start by left-handed starter Xavier Rivas for the Rebs. Two Cornhuskers reached base via a walk and another on a fielder’s choice, but Rivas rallied to shut down the offense with a strikeout of Josh Caron and getting Griffin Everitt to ground out to third.
After getting lead-off hitter Jacob Gonzales to strike out, the day turned as black as freshman starter Caleb Clark’s cap, jersey, and socks. He hit the next batter Ethan Groff and gave up a single to Ethan Harris. After giving himself a chance to get out of the inning by inducing cleanup hitter Kemp Alderman to ground out to Max Anderson at second, Clark gave up a two RBI single to Northwestern transfer Anthony Calarco.
That opened the flood gates as two more singles by Peyton Chatagneir and Judd Utermark loaded the bases. Right fielder T.J. McCants then cleared them all with a triple to right-center putting the Rebels up 5-0 with two out.
Pitching coach Jeff Christy took a walk to the mound but chose not to pull the struggling freshman as apparently no one was warm in the bullpen. Clark faced two more Rebels giving up a walk to Ethan Lege and then hit his second batter of the inning, Jacob Gonzalez. With Mississippi having batted around, Coach Bolt made his first walk of the day to the mound and brought in the right hander Michael Garza. He promptly gave up a three RBI double to Groff. After the fourth free pass issued to a Rebel hitter, he finally got out of the inning on an Alderman fielder’s choice. After one inning, Nebraska was down 8-0.
Nebraska did show a little bit of a fight, finally getting a couple of hits that lead to two runs in the third inning, highlighted by a two-run homer by Brice Matthews. They struck again in the 5th with a solo homer by Efry Cervantes and a second score for Matthews after he singled, stole second and came around to score on a Dylan Carey single. Matthews then scored for third time in the game in the eighth to end Cornhusker scoring.
Mississippi, picked fourth in the tough SEC West moved through the rest of the game with solid pitching and a continued onslaught at the plate, finishing the game with 14 runs on 14 hits. And, they stranded 11 runners, something Cornhusker fans are all too familiar with.
On the other side Nebraska scored five runs on seven hits and what may be a season low, only left four runners on base. Mississippi not only hit the ball all over the park, they were also helped by less than stellar Big Red pitching. Cornhusker pitchers hit three batters, walked eight, and intentionally walked one. Those twelve free baserunners scored seven of the 14 Mississippi runs. Toss in another run scored on a passed ball and one can see that it was an easy day for the Rebels.
Of note for the Cornhuskers, three true freshmen and a redshirt took the mound today. Though Caleb Clark struggled, Jalen Worthley and J.C. Gutierrez showed that they both have good stuff, and Will Rizzo came in looked okay as well. Brice Matthews was 3-3 at the plate with a home run and two singles.
Efry Cervantes also had a home run. Dylan Carey showed his athleticism with an acrobatic catch in foul territory that may have ended up saving runs as the bases were loaded at the time. Of concern, hot hitting Garrett Anglim was pulled from the game in the fifth inning with an apparent leg injury suffered when he was trying to make a play in the outfield.
Nebraska ends the weekend 2-1 and have run their record on the season to 5-4-1. They make their home debut Tuesday in the first of two games in two days against the Northern Colorado Bears. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. and on Wednesday they will start action at 2:05.
It will be interesting to see who Coach Bolt chooses to put on the mound both days but does have a number of options available to him.
Better days are ahead!