Notebook: Huskers/Iowa Game 1

Nebraska dropped their third straight conference game on Friday night, falling to Iowa by the final score of 4-3. The Huskers (20-12, 3-4) grabbed a 2-0 lead after four innings, but couldn't hold on, giving up all four runs to the Hawkeyes (13-14, 4-3) in the top of the fifth.

*The Huskers had a number of opportunities pass them by at the plate, including a big chance in the bottom of the fourth. After a leadoff double and single by Kale Kiser and Michael Pritchard, the Huskers only managed to get one run across on a groundout by Rich Sanguinetti. Nebraska's #3 and #4 hitters both flew out to end the threat.

The biggest failures offensively for the Huskers came on the base paths. In the bottom of the eighth, Sanguinetti led off with a single, was sacrificed to second, but was then picked off to ruin a chance to tie the game. Head coach Darin Erstad was not pleased with the mistakes. "I was very disappointed in some of the things that happened on the base paths, with as much time as we've spent on that… guys are trying, they're pressing – we just have to play our brand of baseball."

*Erstad was also unhappy with Nebraska's pitching. In five of the first six innings and seven of the nine, the Husker pitchers allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base. The head coach said that playing with fire like that would eventually come back to bite them. "We're not good enough to overcome those things: we have to be very sharp and execute at a high level or we're not going to win very many games."

Starter Tom Lemke only went four innings, giving up three runs (one earned) and falling to 3-3 on the year. The junior danced out of trouble in the first, second and fourth innings, but failed to record an out in the fifth.

*Defensively the Huskers were not sharp. They committed three errors, including two on one play by Kurt Farmer – in the four-run fifth inning, Farmer misplayed a groundball to third base, and then proceeded to airmail a throw to first allowing the leadoff hitter to reach second. The floodgates opened from there. Nebraska also committed an error in the ninth inning.

Erstad is confident he knows what is at the heart of Nebraska's struggles in Big Ten play this season. "Consistency has not been our strong suit this year, and I'm not sure our guys believe – I'm sure they believe that they can win in conference… We're dealing with a group of guys that haven't won in conference play. It's my job to get them to believe and get them over that hump, and we will." Belief was a theme that Erstad repeated multiple times after the game. Time will tell if he can get his team to buy in to his plan completely.


*Despite only pitching four innings, Lemke lowered his ERA from 4.13 to 3.93. The junior only threw 63 pitches on the night, which wasn't much more than Dylan Vogt, the second man out of the bullpen for Nebraska. Vogt threw 40 pitches over 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball for the Huskers, lowering his ERA to 1.91.

*Despite an injury that is keeping him from playing in the field, Michael Pritchard had two hits tonight as a DH. Pritchard raised his batting average to .415, and was the only Husker with multiple hits.

Nebraska will look to even up the three game series with the Hawkeyes tomorrow afternoon, and will lean on sophomore Brandon Pierce, who is making the first conference start of his career. Pierce is 3-1 on the season with a 1.93 ERA. First pitch is set for 2:05.

- Josh Harvey -

Josh Hilkemann has worked for Big Red Report since October of 2011. He is currently a senior at UNL and has been featured on the Big Ten Digital Network as a play-by-play announcer for Husker basketball and volleyball.
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