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Nebraska's pitching staff has been depleted by a spate of recent injuries.

Thursday, the Huskers' vulnerability in that area seemed evident.

Cal Poly handed Nebraska its first home season-opening loss since 1978 with a 14-8 decision before 2,303 spectators at Haymarket Park, as the Mustangs, picked to finish third in the Big West Conference, smacked 13 hits and drew 10 walks against six Husker pitchers.

Former Nebraska head coach John Sanders was in his first season in that role in 1978 when St. Cloud State prevailed 15-6 in the home opener.

Nebraska, now 6-6 on the season, actually gave itself breathing room in the sixth inning as senior Scott Schreiber laced a two-run double to push the lead to 8-4.

But the comfort was only temporary.

Cal Poly (6-7) responded with a five-run seventh, taking a 9-8 lead when three runs scored on a play that included throwing errors by shortstop Brison Cronenbold and first baseman Luke Roskam. The Mustangs added two runs in the eighth and three more in the ninth.

"We pride ourselves on playing very well defensively," seventh-year Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said. "We had a couple chances to make some plays and get out of some innings, and we didn't do that.

"Then, after that, when you stop throwing strikes and walk a lot of guys — especially when it's cold out — it gets difficult to play defense because you lose the flow of the game, and then you have to really concentrate."

The Huskers had played well defensively before the seventh-inning errors. Among the defensive highlights were Roskam's over-the-shoulder grab of a first-inning popup and Schreiber's running catch of a third-inning drive to right-center field.

The good defense was needed because Cal Poly applied heavy pressure throughout against some shoddy Nebraska pitching.

Because four relievers are out with arm injuries, Husker coaches are pushing pitchers into tough situations more quickly than planned.

"I'm already hunkered down for a rocky road," Erstad said. "I just get it. There are some guys who don't have experience. That's what we have. That's the hand were dealt right now, and we have to find a way to make it work. We're going to do it. I'm not going to concede anything."

Meanwhile, the Huskers pounded out 12 hits, including four by second baseman Zac Repinski and three by catcher Jesse Wilkening.

But Cal Poly relievers retired the last eight Nebraska hitters.

Erstad's message to his team?

"He said that's not how we're supposed to play," Repinksi said. "We need to show up, take care of the baseball and make sure we make pitches, and make sure we play our game."

Repinksi's two-run double and Wilkening's run-scoring single gave Nebraska a 5-3 lead in the second inning. The Huskers went up 6-3 in the fourth on Roskam's run-scoring ground out to shortstop before the Mustangs pulled to 6-4 in the top of the fifth.

Nebraska got on the board first, jumping on the visitors in the bottom of the first inning on Wilkening's two-run single.

But Cal Poly responded with three runs in the top of the second, highlighted by freshman Tate Samuelson's solo home run over the left-field wall off junior right-hander Matt Waldron.

Junior Mike Waldron (0-1) took the loss, but fellow relievers Keegan Watson, Ethan Frazier, Byron Hood and Max Schreiber didn't have much luck, either.

As for Repinski, a senior from Prior Lake, Minnesota, his 4-for-5 day raised his season average to .400.

"I've been feeling good," he said. "I feel like I'm seeing the ball really well and can work both sides. But right now, it's more important that we can scrabble together some wins."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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