The Nebraska baseball team returns home from Southern California 0-4 and hard lessons learned.
The latest came Sunday against Southern Cal, when the Huskers allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to drop a 4-3 decision to the Trojans.
“Like I told our guys, it should have never got to that point,” head coach Darin Erstad said on his post-game radio show. “We had second and third a couple times with less than two (outs) and we pride ourselves in doing that. We didn't execute. This game should have been 7-2 at the time. Again, when you play teams that are quality opponents and you give them an opportunity and don't put them away, that's going to happen. Unfortunately, we're learning the hard way right now.”
What Erstad was referring to was Nebraska's inability to cash in on scoring opportunities late in the game. The Huskers had runners on second and third with one out in the top of the ninth but were unable to push across any runs.
The Huskers had trailed 1-0 most of the game until the sixth inning when the team strung together a number of hits off Southern Cal starter Kyle Twomey. Kash Kalkowski, Josh Scheffert and Tanner Lubach all picked up RBIs in the inning to put Nebraska ahead 3-1.
Nebraska got a solid outing from junior college transfer Christian DeLeon, who allowed one run on four hits in 4.2 innings on the mound.
“I thought he did a nice job,” Erstad said of DeLeon. “I thought he mixed his pitches well and they're an aggressive hitting team. He threw some off-speed stuff early in the count. We would have liked to go longer, but we really didn't have him stretched out past the point that he was, we'll keep building him up.”
Husker closer Dylan Vogt entered the game in the sixth inning, and allowed one Trojan run in the seventh inning.
In the ninth, Vogt allowed two runners on with one out before the Huskers intentionally walked the bases loaded. Garrett Stubbs' sac fly tied the game at three, and with runners on first and second and two outs, USC's Adam Landecker doubled to drive in the winning run and send Nebraska home winless on the weekend.
Following Nebraska's sweep in a doubleheader by Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Erstad said his team wasn't executing well. He said the details are evading the Huskers right now.
“It's our job as coaches to make sure they know that those little things matter,” Erstad said. “Until they play quality opponents and understand that those little things make a difference in how you're executing your pitch, are you hitting the outside or inside corner, are you getting the bunt down, are you doing a rundown correctly? All those things you don't think about in a 10-7 win, when it's 2-1, 1-0, those are the things you have to take care of.”
Nebraska returns to action next weekend with a three-game set at Texas in Austin. Erstad said he felt his team learned a lot in its first four games of the season.
“This is a great challenge for our team mentally, and it's not going to stop,” Erstad said. “These guys are going to have to learn, we have to get them ready to play quality baseball night in and night out. We're 0-4 if you look at wins and losses, but we easily could have been 3-1, maybe 2-2 very easily. It's one of those things where it's a very fine line you walk in this game and they need to understand that.”