LINCOLN – The game looked to be all but over after the sixth inning.
Omaha (13-19) was ahead 8-3, and had just hung a four-spot in the top of the frame.
Nebraska (16-19) came storming back, scoring three runs in the seventh and another in the eighth, but were set down in order in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Mavericks to come away with an 8-7 victory on Wednesday night at Haymarket Park.
It was Omaha’s first win over Nebraska since April 30, 1997.
The Huskers made a strong push offensively, but defense and pitching were again a problem in the second straight loss and the fifth defeat in the last seven games.
Nebraska’s pitching staff walked nine batters and hit five more.
“(Omaha) took advantage of us making mistakes,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “They mixed in their hits and they played a better game than we did. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, whether it’s an in-state team, out-of-state team, it doesn’t matter. The team that wins the battle of the free passes usually is going to win and we were on the wrong end of that.”
Omaha started the scoring right away in the first inning, going up 2-0 with an RBI single and a fly out RBI.
Nebraska responded in the bottom half of the first. Senior Scott Schreiber, coming off of an 0-for-5 night against Kansas State on Tuesday, blasted a one-out triple to right field, and sophomore Luke Roskam brought him home with a two-run homer to right, tying the game at 2-2.
The home run was Roskam’s fourth of the season, as he finished the night 2-for-4 at the plate with a run scored and team-high three RBIs. Schreiber went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI.
Nebraska didn’t get another hit until the sixth inning, and Omaha retook the lead with a pair of runs in the third and four more in the sixth.
“I personally didn’t really care for our effort early on,” Erstad said. “For me, that’s the toughest thing to handle right now. We were reactionary, started swinging the bats well, but offensively we were asleep and like I said, I wasn’t very happy with our attitude early on in the game. Looked a little too cold for our guys. (Omaha) wanted it more, and give them credit for kicking our tails.”
On the mound, it was a bullpen night for the Huskers. Junior right-hander Ethan Frazier (1-1) made his first start of the season and the fifth of his career Wednesday.
He struggled with command right from the get-go, lasting 2.2 innings and allowing four hits, two earned runs, three walks, one strikeout and a hit batter.
Nebraska’s defense led off the top of the third inning with an error at first base from Schreiber. A walk and a single loaded the bases, and then Frazier walked in a run to end his night.
“Ethan Frazier, he’s coming back from (offseason) surgery with a tendon that ripped off his arm( in the Big Ten tournament),” Erstad said. “We didn’t even think he’d be able to pitch again, and his stuff’s not there. He’s battling, but he’s throwing low 80s instead of upper 80s and low 90s. He’s giving us everything he has, but it’s tough.
“We brought all of these guys here, we recruited them, we coached them, that’s on us to have them succeed and that’s the bottom line.”
Freshman righty Andrew Abrahamowicz relieved Frazier in the third and walked in another run, but threw a strikeout to end the inning.
Abrahamowicz shined in his tenth appearance of the season, throwing a season-high five strikeouts in 2.1 innings. He allowed only one hit through 11 batters faced.
Nebraska’s bullpen kept the Mavericks scoreless for the final three innings.
Trailing 8-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Huskers benefited from an Omaha error to get leadoff man and sophomore right fielder Ben Klenke aboard at first base. An RBI single by junior DH Jesse Wilkening and a two-run RBI single by junior shortstop Angelo Altavilla made it an 8-6 ball game after seven innings.
After Omaha went hitless in the top of the eighth, Klenke got on base in the bottom of the frame with a one-out single to right, and Schreiber scored him with an RBI single to the opposite side.
Nebraska set themselves up well for a ninth inning miracle. Senior closer Jake Hohensee put down the Mavericks with seven pitches, but a strikeout, a groundout and a fly out by the Husker offense squashed any hope of a walk-off.
However, it hasn’t been the Huskers’ effort late in games that’s hindered them.
“Early on in games, it looks like we’re scared, we’re timid,” Erstad said. “Walking guys, not competing in the zone, making defensive mistakes. Once we get behind, everyone calms down. It’s easy to play when you’re behind. That’s one of the things we have to flip. Again, it’s my job to find a way to get to these guys and to get them to understand. Obviously, we’re talking about it, but whatever I’m saying is not getting across to them. So, I’m just going to have to keep finding the right buttons to push, because obviously I’m pushing a bunch of wrong ones.”
The Huskers have a quick turnaround, as they go on the road to face Rutgers (19-14, 4-5 Big Ten) for a three-game series beginning on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT, an amendment from the original 2 p.m. CT start time.
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.