Baseball loses heartbreaker at Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. – The Northern Colorado baseball team saw its early lead chipped away at and eventually erased as the Nebraska Cornhuskers came from behind to defeat the Bears 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth on a windy evening in Lincoln.
It was the seventh time in the last 10 games the Huskers won a game after trailing to improve to 15-7 on the year, while the Bears fall to 1-12.
Freshman pitcher Chris Hammer had the best outing of his career, throwing 6.2 innings. He gave up just one run on five hits and struck out a career-best six while walking just two.
"Tonight was another pitching gem by Chris Hammer," said Head Coach Carl Iwasaki. "He grew up a lot tonight and that's an encouragement. We'll take games like this into the Great West Conference season and it will pay off. The wins and losses right now are trivial compared to the work we are doing to get ready for conference play and that's the most important thing."
Iwasaki flipped the top two spots in the batting order for the first time all year and it paid off early as junior Adam Hilker and junior Bret Fanning started the game with back-to-back singles. Junior Casey Coy hit into a fielder's choice and then he and Fanning had a double steal. Senior T.J. Berge walked and Fanning scored on a groundout by junior Ben Packard. Junior Tony Crudo then doubled, plating both Berge and Coy for the early 3-0 lead.
The Bears kept the Huskers off the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth, thanks in part to several good defensive plays, including a leaping grab by Berge to save an extra base hit in the bottom of the second.
Nebraska scored one run on two hits in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 3-1. The Huskers then took the lead in the bottom of the eighth with three runs on four hits for the 4-3 score.
The Bears were aggressive in their next at bat and knotted the score. Crudo led off with a single up the middle on the first pitch, advanced to second on a bunt by junior Kevin Hurd and scored on a single up the middle by sophomore Harrison Lambert. It was the first run for the Bears all season in the ninth frame.
With two outs and a runner on third base, Josh Scheffert hit a line drive to Hilker, who was deep in the hole at short stop. He made a diving stop but Scheffert just beat the throw and Kash Kalkowski scored for the win.
"The kids left it on the field today," said Iwasaki. "Coming back from a one-run deficit in the ninth is big. We're going to lose a few one-run games this year and we're going to win a few this year in one-run situations. We grew up some tonight and we're moving in the right direction."
Hilker, Crudo and Lambert all had two hits each for the Bears, while Crudo had two of the club's four RBI.
Senior Brendan Hall came in to pitch for the Bears in the bottom of the seventh and pitched 0.2 of an inning. He surrendered three runs on two hits and walked two. Fellow senior Joe Sawicki came out of the bullpen for the first time since 2008, throwing the final 1.1 frames. He allowed one run and took the loss to move to 0-4 on the year. He also had three hits, walked one and hit a batter.
For the third straight game and the eighth time this season, the Bears committed no errors on defense. In the contest, NC scored four runs on nine hits, while NU had five runs on 10 hits and also did not have an error in the game.
"It was a good night for us," said Iwasaki. "Obviously it's a disappointment to lose, but the Bears know we can move forward from here."