The University of Nebraska (Kearney) didn't come into this game seriously considered as an upset waiting to happen. Off to an 0-4 start, the Lopers have struggled to keep their pitching intact. Initially however, it was their pitching that actually kept the Lopers in the game. With their starter, Travis Boyll starting off well, NU was kept "fairly" in check through the first three innings.
But as Boyll began to tire, the balls began to overwhelm the strikes, Nebraska took advantage and often.
Throughout the first three innings, Nebraska seemed very much like Nebraska; hitting, stealing and attempting a bunt here or there. Small ball in effect, Nebraska manufactured two runs in the second, taking an early 2-0 lead. UNK came back with an RBI double that brought the Lopers as close as they would be for the rest of the game as NU was just getting warmed up.
With UNK's starter out, the Loper bullpen was tested and in this instance, the grade was less then stellar as they managed to give up 6 runs in the fourth inning lofting Nebraska to an 8-1 lead. Jeff Blevins was the statistical leader today, hitting 3-4 with one monster line-drive smash over the right-field fence. It's actually surprising that this was the only ball hit out of the park today as both Drew Anderson and Jed Morris had huge shots, both to center, but the wind coming across the field to left knocked the steam out of them considerably, bringing them into play. Sophomore catcher, John Grose still can't believe that two shots in particular didn't garner NU a couple of more round-trippers. "Without the wind, I thought that (Jed's hit) was gone, Grose said. "I don't see how that doesn't leave." Drew Anderson's shot seemed similar, Grose stating, "Both of the balls were crushed. I thought for sure they were gone, but the wind kept them in."
What happened for NU and to UNK during the bottom of the 5th was anything but pretty as UNK walked the bases loaded on at least two different occasions, walking in (I believe) a total of five runs which complimented the other 6 NU managed to put up on their own taking an already gorge-like total to canyon-like status as NU lead after this inning, 19-1.
Grose talked about the inning that turned an already one-sided game into a somewhat "ugly" affair. "I know that when I was up there, I saw four straight balls", Grose stated. "I was like "please throw me a strike"." we wanted to hit, but we just couldn't get the pitches." Not lost on this game should be the fact that UNK wasn't entirely healthy in their pitching staff from what Grose recalled. "I know that two of their top pitchers are either hurt or sick or something, so they didn't have all their best guys."
While UNK waded through pitchers due to attrition, Nebraska managed to go through no less than five different pitchers, many reserves seeing an abundance in playing time. In fact the starter, Dustin Timm only saw one inning of work, but still managed to get the win and fan two out of three batters in the process. "Guys needed to see some work out of the bullpen", Grose said. "Scholten hasn't pitched this year yet, so guys just needed to get in there and get some work."
With the vast rotation of pitchers used, Nebraska seemed not to waver a bit as each performed well. Even with bringing in so many different players, NU managed to hold UNK to just two total hits. Grose said that you can't thank UNK for that,
Much like the Nebraska football team perceives a game like McNeese State (for example), this game had to be marked as one where a variety of players would see time, it was only a matter of when. Never taking away from that potential of getting beat, NU still took advantage of what became an insurmountable lead. Grose agreed and stated that after NU built the big lead, it was a perfect time to get others players (besides pitchers) some reps. "I think today was just kind of one of those days where we can try and get work in for everyone, Grose stated, "and it's hard to get a Division 1-A team in here, because if the weather goes bad and we weren't able to play today, it's easy for UNK to get over here the next day or day after, but a Division 1 team that is traveling a lot,it's harder for them to make up the game." Grose also added that this game was needed before play at home began. "We really needed to get a game in before the season starts at home, so we can get to know the field better during a game situation."
Nobody expected this to be a thriller. Nobody really expected this game to be all that competitive, but it made this game no less special because it was the first home game on this field in this park for all the Nebraska players and fans. For both factions, you can throw the opponent out and just take the game in for what it was, a moment in Nebraska history. "It was nice, they (the fans) were great", Grose said. "It was the first time (for me) playing with fans cheering for your side. We have been on the road so much, it's nice to be at home."
And it's nice to have you guys here.
Photo compliments of Avs52. Check out his site for a full GameDay Gallery