For Huskers' baseball, you can't really get a statistical average of NU's advantage at home as they are in their first season on Hawks Field in Haymarket Park. Given that though, enough can't be said for what 5,000 fans clad in red can do for a team, especially if that team is, how shall we say.....cocky?
OU came into this series as one of the leaders in the conference. Trailing only Oklahoma State, OU had been impressive up to this point. And, after Friday, where Shane (still struggling with the sore arm) wasn't his typical self, though he did manage to fan eight batters in just over four innings, OU was feeling sure about themselves and in truth, they had an opportunity to make a real statement that Nebraska's dominance in the conference was over.
In game two, Jamie Rodrigue got off to a shaky start, but got his breathe, his rhythm and pitched like the warrior people are used to these days. Though Jamie never over-powers his opponent, his "bulldog" mentality kept him in innings and got him out of some as well. Catcher, John Grose recalled one particular at-bat that illustrates Rodrigue's style and his "never say die" attitude when on the mound. "It was the game on Saturday and it was against Franz, but it was like a 12 pitch at-bat and he ended up winning it and it was crucial for us."
Crucial enough against Franz, who managed just one hit for the day starkly contrasting his 4 for 5 effort the prior contest. This game became one of opportunities and wind, as the gusts played havoc with the hard-hitting Huskers, but might have been just as cruel to Oklahoma as the wind turned a game-breaking fly ball sailing out into a foul ball, landing harmlessly outside the fences.
Game three was indeed the rubber match, but it turned out to be more than just a series deciding contest as intensities were up and the Oklahoma players mouths were open most of the game. Though coach Van Horn commented to the Omaha World Herald about how players from OU were sounding off throughout the game, Grose said that it was one particular play that got it all started and as the kids like to say, "it was on". "What it was, during the second-inning, the centerfielder (for OU) snapped a fly-ball, trying to show up the hitter and from that point on, the intensity was awesome and we were all over them."
From the second inning on, it was all NU as Nebraska bats caught fire scoring in every inning after the second but one and Marsden chipped in with yet another solid outing, going 7 innings and striking out 7. Jeff Blevins led the team in RBI's hitting in three and Jed Morris led in hits, going 3 out of 4 and scoring 3 times for the day.
Nebraska didn't hold back and sent OU back to Norman with a series loss and a rather appropriate "mercy rule" defeat to close out the stand-off between the two teams. For Grose, the way the series ended was more than appropriate, it was what they deserved. "There's one thing that I personally think, you don't come into someone's park and try to show them up", Grose said. "I mean, you come in, you play hard, but you don't pop off and talk crap and those guys just thought they were going to walk all over us."
With an actual one-run victory (instead of a loss) and yet another "run-rule" decision over a Big Twelve team, Grose said that the time is now when Nebraska has to get back to it's winning ways. "We need to get on a roll", Grose said. "This is the time where we need to win 10 or 15 games in a row. This was a huge turning point for us against Oklahoma, but we need to do something against Oklahoma State and Missouri for it to mean anything."
Oklahoma State (leading the conference) stands as the most formidable foe right now, at least on paper, while Missouri still sits as an important series, because this late in the season, any loss or victory matters. Both of these series will be on the road and this month, Missouri; April 12th -14th and OSU; April 19th thru the 21st.
Nebraska can't look too far though, as they travel to Creighton tomorrow to play their in-state Rivals, the BlueJays and on the 10th, Minnesota comes calling and Nebraska has a chance to get back the game they gave to the Gophers when they visited the MetroDome in March.
As always, thanks to Huskers.com for stats and to the players for taking the time to talk to us.