Iowa City, Iowa – Two-out hitting and three unearned runs were the story in Nebraska’s 4-3 loss to the #17 Iowa Hawkeyes (28-11, 11-2 Big Ten) in Saturday’s series opener. The Huskers, who fell to 30-14 on the year and 6-7 in league play, left 12 runners on base on the afternoon, including the bases loaded twice in the final three innings of the game. The Hawkeyes scored all four of their runs with two outs, including three unearned runs in the first inning following a two-out error.
The Huskers had the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh and ninth innings, but neither time came away with w run. Ryan Boldt respesented the tying run at third base in the ninth inning after earlier reaching on his third hit of the game, but was stranded when Luke Vandermaten picked up his third save of the year after getting Austin Darby to ground into a game-ending fielder’s choice.
Senior Chance Sinclair fell to 5-6 on the year, even though he only gave up one earned run on six hits over 6.2 innings. Sinclair retired the first two Hawkeyes he faced in the first and was on his way to a 1-2-3 inning when Kris Goodman hit a routine groundball to Jake Placzek, but the NU shortstop booted the ball to extend the inning. The Hawkeyes took advantage of the error with three unearned runs on three singles and a walk. Jake Schleppenbach also committed an error later in the inning that loaded the bases, but Sinclair got No. 9 hitter Joel Booker to bounce in a 6-3 groundout to end the bleeding.
Nebraska offense was slow out of the gate, as Blake Hickman threw 5.2 no-hit innings to start the game and had allowed just one base runner before Austin Christensen blasted a two-out double in the fifth. Christian Cox then worked a walk and both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Placzek worked a full count and had a chance to make-up for his first-inning error, but grounded out 5-3 to end the inning.
After being held to one total hit in the second, third and fourth innings combined, Iowa got a leadoff single by Jake Mangler in the fifth. The bases were quickly cleared though when Schleppenbach made a diving stop up the middle and flipped to Placzek for a 4-6-3 double play. Dan Potempa then lined out to end the inning with the Hawkeyes ahead 3-0 through five.
With one hit through the first five innings for the Huskers, Boldt started the sixth with a single to right field. After Hickman retired Schleppenbach for the first out, Ben Miller delivered a home run for the third straight game with a opposite-field shot on a 1-1 offering from Hickman that cut Iowa’s lead to 3-2. Hickman responded with a groundout off the bat of Tanner Lubach before Blake Headley worked a walk to put the tying run on base. Darby then laid down a bunt and reached on a throwing error by Hickman, Lubach moved to third on the play and Darby was awarded second base because of interference by first baseman Taylor Kaufman. The Hawkeyes went to left-handed reliever Ryan Erickson to face Christensen with two runners in scoring position and Erickson won the battle with a groundout to first.
The Huskers had a chance to tie the game in the seventh when Placzek reached on a one-out walk and Boldt followed with a single. Schleppenbach was then retied on a bang-bang play at first for the second out, but NU had two runners in scoring position. The Hawkeyes took a risk and loaded the bases with an international walk to Miller, the move paid off as Erickson got Lubach to ground out to first to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.
Iowa pushed its lead to 4-2 in the seventh when they plated another two-out run. Kaufman led off the inning with a single and was on third with two outs with Mangler coming to the plate. The Huskers went to reliever Jeff Chesnut, and he gave up an infield RBI single on a high chopper. Chesnut retired Goodman to end the inning.
Trying 4-2 in the ninth, Placzek led off with a walk and Nebraska had tying runs on base when Boldt reached on a single. Schelppenbach nearly dropped a single into center field, but Eric Toole made a diving catch. Miller then nearly tied the game with a blast to right-center field, but again Iowa’s defense came to the rescue with a diving catch from Joel Booker. Lubach cut Iowa’s lead to 4-3 with a RBI single and then Headley worked a four-pitch walk to load the bases for Darby. Vandermaten delivered a first-pitch strike and then got Darby to ground out to end the game.
Nebraska and Iowa are set to finish their three game series tomorrow with a doubleheader. The first game tomorrow is scheduled for a 12:05 p.m. start and game two will start roughly 45 minutes after the end of game one.