Nebraska had to swallow a tough loss in the series opener against #21 California (10-2) Friday afternoon, losing in 11 innings, 11-8. The story of the day was not the extra frames played however, but rather the big comeback that it took to get there.
*The Huskers (8-5) did not get a strong outing from starter Zach Hirsch. The sophomore left-hander got hit hard, a product of pitching up in the zone, according to coach Darin Erstad. Hirsch gave up nine hits and seven runs in only three innings of work. It will be interesting to see if Tyler Niederklein will take over the Friday night role. Following a short experiment in the bullpen, the junior has been working his way back into the rotation and is scheduled to pitch on Monday in the series finale.
*Give a lot of credit to the Husker defense. They played well behind all of the Nebraska pitchers, and even gave a spark to the offense when they needed it most. In the top of the 5th inning, Kurt Farmer made a defensive gem of a play, diving toward the foul line and gunning down the runner, getting the crowd into it, and waking up the Husker bats, which would score four runs in the bottom of the frame.
*On the bright side for the Nebraska's offense, they did score eight runs, and have proven time and again that they can hit in clutch situations. Chad Christensen alone had three runs batted in with two outs today. That shows the makings of a good team. However, they still leave too many runners on base. They left the bases loaded in the 5th inning (the one where they scored four runs) and stranded 15 base runners total. They'll need to improve in that area to become a complete offensive team.
*As one might expect, Coach Erstad was not happy about the loss, but he did say that he was proud of his team. And he should be, because the Huskers did show a lot of fight. They'll need to bounce back quickly tomorrow though, because Cal may be the highest ranked team they play all season, and they need to get at least a split of the series if they want to be considered a competitive baseball team.
*The second game of the four game series will be tomorrow at 2:05. Sophomore right-hander Jon Keller (1-0) is scheduled to be up on the hill for Nebraska.
- Josh Harvey -