Huskers fall short in baseball opener against Indiana

2013-05-04T22:15:00Z 2013-05-06T22:48:04Z Huskers fall short in baseball opener against IndianaBy KEN HAMBLETON / Lincoln Journal Star

Outlined against a gray May night, with the cold and blustery winds blowing out to right field, you could see the first home run hit by Indiana's Kyle Schwarber sail toward the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, located almost a third of a mile beyond the right-field fence at Haymarket Park.

Schwarber's homer in the third inning Saturday came down somewhere in the parking lot. His second blast, in the ninth inning, looked more humanlike, akin to the two home runs hit by teammate Nick Ramos.

Those four home runs and a critical play at the plate that stopped a Husker rally in the eighth gave the Hoosiers (35-8, 12-4 in Big Ten) an 8-6 victory against Nebraska in the first game of a crucial Big Ten series.

"We got stung early by a 900-foot homer," Husker coach Darin Erstad said. "I think people were in awe and shock and we got really quiet in the middle part of the game."

Schwarber, who injured his knee in early April, had been the Hoosier catcher. He's the designated hitter now and he hasn't slowed at the plate. The sophomore leads the Big Ten with 12 home runs and boasts a .404 batting average and a .680 slugging percentage.

Despite three early home runs and Indiana's 6-2 lead through the top of the sixth, the Huskers, who scored twice in the first on two hits and two walks, scored one run in the sixth after a double by Chad Christensen. The Husker right fielder, who graduated Saturday morning, advanced on a grounder and scored on a wild pitch.

Nebraska scored three more runs in the eighth when Pat Kelly singled, Michael Pritchard doubled and Christensen singled them both in. He scored on a single by Kash Kalkowski, but Indiana reliever Ryan Halstead got a groundout, then gave up a short single to left by Blake Headley.

Kalkowski, who was waved home, was thrown out at the plate and Halstead ended the inning with a strikeout. He struck out NU's top three batters in the ninth.

The Huskers (20-24, 11-5) lost for the fourth time in the past five games and fell out of a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings.

"We came back and we're pretty good at that," Erstad said. "But you didn't see that through the full game."

Erstad noted the hitting struggles against Indiana starter Joe Denato, a left-hander.

"Another lefty had his way with us and we didn't have good at-bats until that guy was out of there," he said. Last Saturday, the Huskers were blanked by Oklahoma State left-hander Tyler Nurdin. "That's the same song and dance we've been through at times this year. I'm going to have to figure out an answer."

Christensen, who had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice, said the four solo home runs hit by the Hoosiers weren't game killers.

"As Coach Erstad said, the solo home runs aren't that big a deal," Christensen said. "Christian (DeLeon) battled and kept us in that game. We had a couple of teams punching out there, and in the end we just didn't get those last couple runs."

He said of the play at the plate in the eighth, "A good hit, a good call. Challenged the outfielder. He made a good play on it. Tip the cap on that."

Nebraska ace Kyle Kubat (3-0) will start Sunday's 1:05 p.m. game and Aaron Bummer (1-0) will start in Monday's 12:05 p.m. game.

Reach Ken Hambleton at 402-473-7313 or

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