Huskers lack thunder on cloudy day, fall 4-0

Story by Sean Whalen, NewsNetNebraska

The rain never came Sunday. Neither did the hits.

After scoring 20 runs in the first two games of a four game set against Cal, the Nebraska bats went silent with just three hits in a 4-0 loss to Cal.

The loss dropped NU to 9-6 overall and 1-2 in the series with the Golden Bears. Sunday was the first game in the series – and just the second game all year – that never looked to be going NU’s way. While Cal’s pitching was strong, coach Darin Erstad felt his Huskers just weren’t ready to play, repeatedly taking responsibility for the lacking performance.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Erstad said. “We didn’t come to play today. I don’t know if we thought it was going to rain, but it’s on me – I’ve got to get them ready to play and I didn’t do my job today.”

The lack of thunder ruined a strong start by junior Tom Lemke, who threw 6.2 strong innings, giving up three runs and allowing no walks. If catcher Sam Stucky hadn’t dropped the ball during a tag in the seventh, his line would have been two earned in seven full innings.

Erstad was pleased with his starter.

“He pitched great, fantastic,” Erstad said. “I was probably a little concerned with the colder weather with his arm, didn’t know how it would respond. But he did a fantastic job of keeping us focused and keeping us in the game.”

Lemke found Cal’s offense, which did get nine hits off him, to be formidable.

“One through nine they’re really scrappy,” Lemke said. “They take advantage of your mistakes.”

There were few bright spots on the offensive end. Cal starter Kyle Porter threw four no-hit innings to get the win, and NU as a team got its first hit with two outs in the seventh inning. Kale Kiser, after a walk and two sacrifices in the sixth, was the only Husker to reach third base. Overall, the Huskers had six total base runners, with three hits, two walks and a Cal error.

The offense hopes to get going again today, as the Huskers and Bears play the final game of their four-game set. Tyler Niederklein will take the mound for NU, hoping to guide Nebraska to a series split.

A key to the game will be whether or not NU can set the pace. Cal has taken at least a three-run lead to start each game so far this series, something that worries Erstad.

“It’s an ongoing process and we’ve shown signs of doing it on a consistent basis,” Erstad said. “We’re good at responding to a fight, but we’re not good at starting a fight. And that’s something we need to work on.”