OKLAHOMA CITY — The team that clawed, scrapped and grinded its way to the precipice of a regional final Saturday night saw its season end with a thud one day later.
The Nebraska baseball team lost to Connecticut 16-1 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark on Sunday afternoon, ending an up-and-down season in blowout fashion about 15 hours after a stunning 6-5 loss to Oklahoma State on the same field.
From leading the No. 9 national seed 5-0 late to seeing UConn parade around the bases in a near-empty stadium, it was a difficult stretch for the Huskers to grasp.
"It just sucks," senior Angelo Altavilla said, emotion staining his face. "You come so close, but, I don't know, it just doesn't end up the way you want it."
The Huskers (32-24) managed just five hits, all singles, as UConn starting pitcher Colby Dunlop worked a career-high eight innings and threw a career-high 88 stress-free pitches. Dunlop at one point retired 11 Husker batters in a row.
The legion of Husker fans who made the trip to Oklahoma City for Saturday night's game were largely absent Sunday. They didn't miss much.
"A crazy turn of events. You're one out from only needing one win to needing three wins, and then the quick turnaround," NU coach Darin Erstad said. "I thought (NU's players) were actually trying to create some energy when we got here. But the way we are and the depth that we have, we've got to stay on schedule on the mound. We weren't able to do that."
Less than 12 hours after Trevor Boone's massive home run busted a hole in the "H" on the "Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark" sign in deep left field to give Oklahoma State a 6-5 win over Nebraska, the Huskers looked shaky while taking pregame infield.
It carried over to the game. UConn (39-24) scored in five of the first six innings, then tacked on four in the eighth and seven in the ninth. After piling up 19 hits against Nebraska in Friday's 8-5 Huskers' win, the Huskies finished with 22 hits Sunday. They advanced to play Oklahoma State later in the day, beating the Cowboys 5-2 to force a winner-take-all game Monday at 7 p.m.
"We've been in that spot where you win the first one and lose the second one. That's a really tough spot to be in, having a short turnaround," UConn coach Jim Penders said. "It felt like we were just here when we came for batting practice. I can't imagine how they felt. But I also don't want to take any credit away from our guy (Dunlop) or our offense.
"I thought we would have beaten anybody in that first game today."
The loss was Nebraska's second-most lopsided defeat of the season, behind a 17-1 loss to Oregon State back in February.
NU starting pitcher Reece Eddins didn't make it out of the fifth inning, allowing four runs on 10 hits, and seven Nebraska relievers combined to allow 12 more runs on 12 more hits.
Altavilla, who in the wake of the Oklahoma State loss said he didn't want Sunday to be his last game as a Husker, had two of NU's hits and the only RBI.
Nebraska will return a solid young core next season, but loses its entire weekend starting rotation along with senior regulars Altavilla and Alex Henwood to graduation.
The Major League Baseball draft starts Wednesday, meaning more potential returners could be gone.
Whoever returns will have a pair of bitter season-ending defeats to gnaw on for eight months until next season begins.
"It was such a great game last night — a lot of good energy, fans brought good energy, everyone was excited," Eddins said. "And then to just have that loss like that, you could kind of feel it coming to the ballpark. But I thought our guys did a pretty good job of trying to turn the page and get ready for this game. It just didn’t turn out how we wanted."
UConn defeated Oklahoma State 5-2 on Sunday night to force Monday's winner-take-all game.