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Nu Baseball Struggles At Plate, Drops Game To Arkansas

By Expert Author: Gloria Williams

In its last series against UNLV, Nebraska had trouble manufacturing any kind of momentum with its bats.

Going into Tuesday night, opponents outscored the Nebraska team 38-34 in its last two series and one-game contests against Wichita State and Kansas State. The lack of production has resulted in five losses in its past eight games.

Its woes at the plate continued Tuesday against Arkansas (18-10, 4-5 SEC) in Fayetteville, Ark., as the Nebraska team fell 4-3 to drop its fourth game in five contests. Relief pitcher Zach Jackson earned the win, and Michael Gunn picked up his fifth save, while Nebraska’s Jake Hohensee picked up his third loss of the season.

Although they out-walked Arkansas 8-2, only three Nebraska runners crossed home plate, and the Huskers were outhit 7-2 to drop to 15-13 this season.

“When you play a quality team, you can’t stub your toe,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said after the game. “You have to do the little things in the game to win those type of games, and when you don’t you lose.”

Erstad, hoping to brew up some kind of offensive rhythm, bumped sophomore Jake Placzek to the leadoff spot for the first time this season. Although the third baseman and the Huskers went 1, 2, 3 to begin the first inning, Nebraska made noise in the second.

After junior catcher Tanner Lubach and freshman outfielder Ryan Boldt began the inning with a single and walk, freshman first baseman Bryce Only put down a sacrifice bunt to set up junior Steven Reveles.

The .274-hitting shortstop came through with a line drive into left field to bring home Lubach and Boldt and give Nebraska an early 2-0 lead.

But if you were to ask Erstad, he’d tell you his team had several chances to capitalize at the play all game long.

“We had probably 74 fly balls, or weak fly balls, multiple 2-0, 3-0 counts where we had we contact,” he said. “That just can’t happen.”

Hohensee struggled with command the following two innings.

Prior to the game on Huskers Sports Radio, pitching coach Ted Silva said keeping Hohensee’s nerves in check would be key to a quality start.

“He’s definitely going to have to control his emotions today,” Silva said. “If he can go out there and trust his stuff, it should be a good day.”

Although Hohensee was able to shut down Arkansas in the first inning and escape the bottom half of the second after allowing three runners to reach base, he allowed the first three Razorbacks to reach on singles to start the third.

With the bases loaded, Arkansas’ Tyler Spoon drilled a double to tie the game at 2-2. Krisjon Wilkerson and Eric Fisher followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies to Nebraska senior right fielder Ty Kildow to give the Razorbacks a 4-2 lead.

Hohensee, however, bounced back in the bottom of the fourth, retiring the side in order before being replaced by sophomore left-hander Austin Christensen.

Erstad said he was impressed with Hohensee’s poise.

“Outside that (third inning) I thought he did alright,” Erstad said. “Somehow we found our way out of that (second inning), I’m not sure how. But again, it’s another step in his growing process.”

Christensen, who started 19 games at first base and has one appearance on the mound this season, sat down six straight Arkansas batters to keep the Huskers in the game.

The bullpen’s work didn’t go unnoticed by their head coach.

“I thought Austin Christensen threw the ball fantastic, and (senior) Zach (Hirsch) did what he always does,” Erstad said. “They gave us a chance to win.”

Although the pair of southpaws provided Nebraska with shutout innings from the bullpen, the Razorbacks pitching replacements proved clutch as well in the games wearing on. Entering the game the Razorbacks posted a 15-0 record when leading after seven innings and continued that trend in Game 1 of the series when Jackson and Gunn allowed 0 runs in 4.2 innings of combined work.

Kyle Kubat (1-1, 4.91), who was originally penciled in to start Tuesday night, will start Game 2 against the Razorbacks’ Alex Phillips (2-0, 1.29) on Wednesday.

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