Big Red Baseball’s Season in Jeopardy

By at May 7, 2012 | 10:56 AM | Print

Big Red Baseball’s Season in Jeopardy

After Nebraska’s series opening game against Indiana, one could almost be optimistic about the rest of the season.

The Huskers had won a second series-opener in a row behind the left arm of freshman Kyle Kubat, a challenge for this year’s team. The bats came alive in the 13-2 win, even for players like Chad Christensen who had been battling slumps.

Then the wheels fell off.

In a Sunday doubleheader, Nebraska gave the game away with walks and defensive mistakes. In the first inning, Indiana scored on a HBP and walk when SS Chad Christensen didn’t field the ball correctly on a double play. Later, Christensen lost a two out pop-fly in the sun that cost Nebraska an additional two runs in the 7-5 loss.

The Huskers’ regular Sunday starter was shelled in the third game of the series, being chased in the second inning after giving up four runs on four straight two-out hits including two triples and a double to put Indiana up 6-1.

While Erstad’s crew would battle back to score five more runs of their own, Indiana tagged Nebraska’s pitching staff for a total of nine runs on 16 hits, taking the series and sole possession of second place in the conference.

What seemed like a promising season has quickly become a disaster with the Huskers now tied for seventh place in the conference standings. If the season ended today, Nebraska would miss another conference postseason tournament.

Only weeks ago, the Big Red was fighting for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. Nebraska is now fighting for the right to be in a lower-tier conference’s tourney.

If there was any doubt how far Nebraska had fallen under Mike Anderson, let that be erased now. The offense has shown statistical improvement this year under Will Bolt, and at times the attitude, fire and passion has seemed better as well.

However, this is a big rebuilding project. While you can’t get rid of the ghost of Mike Anderson in one season, fans hoped to see Nebraska take a step forward.

This is Big Ten baseball. Nebraska would’ve been shelled in Big 12 play. It’s inexcusable for the Huskers to miss the conference tournament in a league so weak, leaving Darin Erstad’s first season as head coach as a rather stunning failure.

AROUND THE B1G

Standings:

1. No. 13 Purdue – 14-4 (35-9) – (Last Week: 1st) (13-23)

2. Indiana – 11-7 (24-24) – 3 games back – (LW: Tied for 2nd) (15-26)

3. Minnesota – 10-8 (28-22) – 4 games back – (LW: Tied for 2nd) (18-18)

Michigan State – 10-8 (29-16) – 4 games back – (LW: Tied for 4th) (19-17)

Penn State – 10-8 (24-23) – 4 games back – (LW: Tied for 4th) (19-17)

6. Ohio State – 11-10 (27-20) – 4.5 games back (LW: 8th)

7. Nebraska – 9-9 (29-18) – 5 games back – (Tied for 4th) (16-20)

Illinois – 9-9 (26-21) – 5 games back – (LW: Tied for 4th) (20-16)

9. Iowa – 7-11 (19-24) – 7 games back (LW: 9th) (24-12)

10. Michigan – 6-12 (19-28) – 8 games back (LW: 10th) (23-13)

11. Northwestern – 5-16 (16-29) – 10.5 games back (LW: 11th)

Big Ten king Purdue had the weekend off from conference play and headed out to see the UCLA Bruins in Los Angeles. UCLA swept a Saturday doubleheader and led Purdue 10-5 going into the ninth inning of the final game before Purdue exploded with a 10-run effort to win 15-11.

The series loss definitely damages Purdue’s chances at a national seed. The Boilermakers’ magic number to win the conference is down to three and they finish against Iowa and Michigan, all but assuring the conference title.

Minnesota beat St. Thomas in a midweek series before dropping two of three at home to Penn State. The Gophers only have six games remaining, all conference road games (at Nebraska and Illinois).

Penn State plays Illinois at home this weekend before traveling to Michigan State.

The Spartans bounced back from their series loss at Purdue to take two of three from Illinois. They play the remainder of their conference series at home, facing Iowa and Penn State.

Ohio State swept Northwestern to stay in the conference playoff picture. The Buckeyes only have three conference games left, taking a non-conference weekend to play Seattle before finishing the conference slate at Indiana.

It’s clear the Huskers’ schedule sets them up favorably for the remainder of the season, with a chance to play Minnesota and bottom-dwelling Michigan.

That said, Purdue and Indiana have the easiest conference schedules remaining and are in strong positions to finish with the two first day byes during the Big Ten tournament.

B-HACKS

 

– Sophomore outfielder Michael Pritchard increased his hitting streak to 24 games, getting a hit in all three games. He now has the fourth longest streak in Nebraska history since 1958, one game behind third place.

– Pritchard still leads the team in hitting with a .379 batting average and OPS with a .441.

– Nebraska as a team is batting .313 to opponents’ .285

– Kyle Kubat has quickly become one of the Huskers best pitchers with his 3.0 record and a 2.50 ERA. Game two starter Brandon Pierce is currently sporting a 5-3 record with a 4.30 ERA while Sunday starter Zach Hirsch has a 4-4 record with a 5.59 ERA.

– The Huskers’ team ERA sits at a 4.21, compared to a 6.51 for opponents.

– Nebraska wraps up its season series against Creighton on Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha at 7 PM CT. The game will be televised on NET.

– Next weekend, the Huskers begin their final four-game homestand as they face third-place Minnesota in a three-game conference series. Friday’s game will be televised on NET.

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