By Tommy Rezac
LINCOLN – Thursday’s game at Haymarket Park had all the earmarks of another routine, home-opening win for Nebraska Baseball.
That is, until the top of the seventh inning.
Nebraska (6-6) led 8-4 at the end of the sixth, but Cal Poly (6-7) hung five runs in the seventh, two more in the eighth and three more in the ninth to top Nebraska 14-8 on Thursday afternoon with 2,303 fans in attendance at Hawks Field.
Those fans had to witness the first ever home-opening loss at Haymarket Park and the first home-opening loss overall since 1978.
“We pride ourselves on playing very well defensively,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said afterward. “We had a couple of chances to make a couple of plays to get out of some innings and we didn’t do that. After that, when you stop throwing strikes and you walk a lot of guys, especially when it’s cold out, it gets very difficult to play defense, because you lose the flow of the game.
“We did not take care of the baseball at all after that, and it got very sloppy, and I’m not going to see that again.”
In total, Nebraska committed three fielding errors, gave up 13 hits, a season-high 14 runs, ten walks, four wild pitches and hit three batters.
“This is as bad as it’s been,” Erstad said of his team’s defensive play. “Respecting the game of baseball, you need to take care of that little round thing, and we did not do that today.”
Of the six pitchers Nebraska put on the mound, five of them surrendered at least one earned run.
Junior Matt Waldron (1-1) made his second start on the mound this season, and tossed three innings in a no-decision, while giving up four hits, three earned runs and two walks. He also had two strikeouts.
His twin brother, Mike Waldron (0-1) took the loss. Waldron replaced Ethan Frazier on the mound with two outs in the top of the seventh and Nebraska leading 8-5.
Waldron walked his first two batters to walk in a run. In the next at-bat, three unearned runs scored due to two throwing errors – one by shortstop Angelo Altavilla and another by first baseman Luke Roskam.
Cal Poly led 9-8 at the end of the seventh and outscored Nebraska 5-0 in the final two innings.
The Huskers’ bullpen is still thin due to injury. Chad Luensmann, Robbie Palkert and Connor Curry are out for the year, while Jake McSteen and Reece Eddins are still on the mend.
“I’m already hunkered down for a rocky road,” Erstad said. “I just get it. There’s some guys that don’t have experience. That’s what we have. That’s the hand we’re dealt right now, and we’ve got to find a way to make it work, and we’re going to do it.
“I’m not going to concede anything. We’re going to try and find a way to win games, and we’ve got to find a way to get these guys ready to pitch on a consistent basis. That’s what we have. We’ve got to make it work.”
Offensively, the Huskers notched 12 hits, but didn’t score any runs or get any hits after the sixth inning.
Nebraska takes on Cal Poly on Friday at 1:35, and then play them in a doubleheader on Saturday, with the first game starting at 12:05.
“Every game is really important,” sophomore first baseman Zac Repinski said, who led Nebraska at the plate with four hits, four runs and two RBIs.
“I just think that each game, we’re going to have to come prepared and focused in every time we play them on every pitch, and make sure we don’t come out (Friday) and play like this.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.