Nebraska hosted Cal State Bakersfield in its second to last home series of the season, but they didn’t come alone. Mother Nature had both squads in dance competitions during the rain.
The Saturday doubleheader following a rained-out Friday resulted in a lackluster effort from the Husker Hardballers. It’s easy to understand why Nebraska might not take a non-conference series seriously.
No conference title outside of the tournament and no at-large bid in sight.
The Huskers got off to a quick lead in game one of the doubleheader, scoring two runs off of CSU-B starter Spenser Messmore in the second inning after a lead-off double by Richard Stock. CSU-B battled back, tagging Husker starter Kyle Kubat for one run in the third inning.
Kubat offered one of Nebraska’s better series-opening performances, pitching five innings while only allowing three hits and two walks and giving up one earned run. The Roadrunners tagged reliever Tyler Niederklien for another run in the 6th to tie the game 2-2.
That’s where the scoring ended before the game went to extra innings. Dylan Vogt took over in the seventh for Nebraska, pitching four shutout innings of three-hit ball with three strikeouts.
More impressive was Messmore – who pitched 10 innings – allowing just two earned runs while scattering eight hits.
When Messmore finally left the game, Nebraska immediately capitalized on reliever Hayden Carter in the bottom of the 11th. Austin Darby walked and Chad Christensen finally came up with a clutch single to put runners on the corners with no outs. Senior Kale Kiser delivered the walk-off win with a single.
Game two didn’t go nearly as well as the Roadrunners tagged Husker starter Brandon Pierce for eight runs in 5.2 innings of work and his first loss since February 9th. Meanwhile, CSU-B starter Jeff McKenzie pitched 8.1 innings while only allowing two runs and eight hits.
While both Roadrunner starters went over 132 pitches, they accounted for 18.1 innings of pitching against Nebraska.
In total, 78 of 82 Husker plate appearances were against the CSU-B starters. Tip your hat to their excellent performances, but it equals a pathetic appearance by the Nebraska offense with only five runs to show for that effort in two games.
Put simply, the team sporting scarlet this weekend doesn’t deserve any sort of NCAA post-season consideration. The rebuilding effort is still very much on-going in Lincoln.
AROUND THE B1G
1. No. 13 Purdue – 14-4 (34-7) – (Last Week: 1st)
2. Minnesota – 9-6 (26-20) – 3.5 games back – (LW: Tied for 2nd)
Indiana – 9-6 (22-23) – 3.5 games back – (LW: Tied for 5th)
4. Nebraska – 8-7 (28-16) – 4.5 games back – (LW: 4th)
Michigan State – 8-7 (27-15) – 4.5 games back – (LW: Tied for 2nd)
Illinois – 8-7 (25-18) – 4.5 games back – (LW: 8th)
Penn State – 8-7 (22-22) – 4.5 games back – (LW: Tied for 5th)
8. Ohio State – 8-10 (24-20) – 6 games back (LW: 7th)
9. Iowa – 6-9 (17-22) – 6.5 games back (LW: 9th)
10. Michigan – 4-11 (17-27) – 8.5 games back (LW: 10th)
11. Northwestern – 5-13 (14-26) – 9 games back (LW: 11th)
The Huskers’ weekend off allowed the conference picture to clear-up. Purdue won two of three against Michigan State – essentially locking down the league – while knocking the Spartans back into a four-way tie for fourth. The Boilermakers travel to UCLA for a non-conference series key to their hopes of a national seed in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans take on another fourth place team in Illinois next week.
Indiana jumped into a tie for second place in the conference by sweeping Michigan in Ann Arbor.Head Coach Tracy Smith earned his 500th and 501st career victory in a Sunday double-header sweep.
The Hoosiers take on the Huskers in Bloomington this weekend in a key series for both squads and neither team plays a midweek game. The Wolverines face off against the Iowa Hawkeyes in a battle of teams not likely to make the Big Ten tournament.
Minnesota came off its series loss at Michigan State with a win over North Dakota State before taking two of three from the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Gophers won 5-4, and 4-3, before dropping the series finale on Sunday 5-4 in 12 innings. They play Penn State this weekend.
That same Penn State team defeated Mount St. Mary’s and Kent State before dropping the opener against the Ohio State Buckeyes 4-1.
The Nittany Lions responded by winning Saturday and Sunday’s games (5-4 and 8-7, respectively) with the Sunday victory coming with a walk-off home run. The 4-1 week got the Lions back to .500 on the season.
Ohio State gets a chance to bounce back with a three game series against Northwestern.
Illinois took advantage of that same Northwestern series, bouncing back from a midweek loss to Indiana State with a three-game sweep of the Wildcats (2-0, 5-4, 3-2). The Illini face Michigan State this weekend.
At this point, Purdue only has six conference games remainin, and has a magic number of four games to clinch a share of the regular season title and the top seed in the Big Ten tournament. The Boilermakers will get their chance against two of the worst teams in the conference, Iowa and Michigan.
Meanwhile, it looks like Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern all will not make the B1G tournament. That leaves five spots for the last seven teams.
Ohio State is a long shot at this point with 10 losses already, though their final six games include three against Northwestern.
The other six teams (Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan State, Illinois, and Penn State) are separated by one game. There is only room for five of those teams in the tournament, and one of them will get a bye as the second seed in the conference tourney.
This makes for a fascinating final three weekends of conference baseball.
- Michael Pritchard extended his hitting streak to 21 games, the fifth-longest in school history. He did just enough to keep the streak alive, going 2-for-7 on the weekend. He’s hitting .376 on the season.
- Kale Kiser has been hitting well lately, going 4-for-6 on the weekend. While only hitting .265 on the year, he leads the team in On Base Percentage at .453.
- The Huskers batting average has slowly been sliding since conference play started, and now sits at .312. Opponents are hitting .283 against Nebraska.
- Kyle Kubat and Dylan Vogt, the pitching heroes of Game One, are now both near the top of the team in ERA, with Vogt’s down to a 1.40 and Kubat’s down to 2.45.
- The team ERA is at a 4.11, while opponents are at a 6.60.
- The Huskers travel to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the second-place Hoosiers. Friday’s first-pitch is at noon (Central), the Saturday game gets underway at 11 a.m. and will be televised on the Big Ten Network and BTN2Go. The Sunday game will also get underway at noon Central.