Nebraska Gets Even, 7-5

If mulligans were awarded in college baseball, then No. 5 Texas will gladly accept a do-over to atone for an ill-fated fifth inning against No. 3 Nebraska at Disch-Falk Field Saturday. That's when the Horns let a four-run lead slip through their gloves as the Huskers put up a six-spot courtesy of five hits, two walks, plus a rare fielding error on CF Drew Stubbs. The visitors held on to even the series with a 7-5 comeback.

"They're really a quality a team and it isn't that easy to break them," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "What you saw was a championship-type performance on their part. That (fifth) inning was a great inning for them. Sustaining that inning for as long as they did takes a lot of talent."

Texas RBI-leader Carson Kainer represented the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth but took a called third strike, leaving runners at the corners. The loss dropped Texas to 28-14 and 13-3 in Big 12 play. Nebraska raised its mark to 31-6, 11-3 in the league standings. The rubber match is set for 1 p.m. (CST) Sunday.

"We had a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth," Garrido added. "We had runners in scoring positions and it didn't come up for us. That was the difference."

Nebraska SS Ryan Wehrle and LF Nick Jaros were also difference-makers; their clutch fielding probably prevented at least a couple of runs during Texas' final at-bats. There was also a highly questionable officiating call in the bottom of the seventh when the third base umpire ruled that Stubbs was out while attempting to steal second.

The Huskers tallied their seven runs on eight hits and committed no errors. The Horns produced 13 hits, but only four following the third inning. and were guilty of two errors. Nebraska pitcher Tony Watson entered the series with a spotless 6-0 record but was knocked out of the game in 2.1 innings after the Horns shelled the lefty for nine hits. Freshman LHP Riley Boening drew the start for Texas, yielding four runs (three earned) on five hits in 4.1 innings. He struck-out one, walked two, threw a wild pitch and also hit a batter. Cornhusker middle relief pitcher Charlie Shirek picked up the win after surrendering just one run on three hits in 4.2 innings. Kenn Kasparek shouldered the loss after getting rocked in that disastrous fifth inning.

Texas overcame SS Chaise Fuller's two-base throwing error by turning the double play to get out of the first inning unscathed. Luke Gorsett reached on a fielder's choice in the Nebraska second while Andrew Brown took one for the team when Boening plunked him in the shin. But the Horns turned another double-play to strand two Cornhuskers and then got on the scoreboard in the home half of the frame.

DH Brett Lewis got things started with a leadoff single. 2B Bradley Suttle showed bunt and then lifted Watson's changeup into left field Chais Fuller's sacrifice moved both runners into scoring position. Clay Van Hook's infield chopper scored the first run of the ballgame on the fielders choice as Suttle thrown out in a run-down between second and third. Van Hook took second on the play, which factored into Texas' second run of the ballgame. Nick Peoples' base hit plated Van Hook before Chance Wheeless lined one into right field. Peoples stumbled as he rounded third and was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

The Horns tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the third. Preston Clark drove Watson's fastball into right field for a standup double after Kainer reached on a one-out walk. Lewis laced a high fastball up the middle for a two-RBI single while Texas threatened to break this one open when Bradley Suttle fisted one into shallow center to put runners on the corners. Watson was done. Freshman RHP Charlie Shirek (3.16 ERA) took the mound and got out of the inning when Fuller hit into a 3-6-3 double play.

The Horns were cruising, taking a 4-0 lead into the top of the fifth, but the wheels came off defensively. The Huskers tallied successive base hits to plate their first run of the contest. Jake Mort's line drive put runners on the corners with one out, bringing pitching coach Tom Holliday to the mound. Bryce Nimmo worked the count full and then took a base on balls to load the bases. That was all for Boening as Kasparek came on to try to get Texas out of the jam. Instead, he walked Nick Jaros to score another Husker run with the meat of the order coming to bat. Ryan Wehrle's base hit into center got away from Stubbs and rolled to the wall, scoring three runs.

Holliday had seen enough, yanking Kasparek and signalling for LHP Kyle Walker. The freshman forced a groundout before Luke Gorsett hammered a high slider into left field to score another run. He fanned Andrew Brown, who was batting for the second time that inning, but now Nebraska took its first lead of the series, 6-4.

"They separated ball-from-strike really well and took the walks that they needed to take in that inning," Garrido said. "They had five at-bats where they got singles, and four of them was when they were behind in the count. In those situations, they were able to hit."

Stubbs dribbler to third was good for an infield single before Shirek issued his first walk of the game to put Preston Clark aboard with one out. Kyle Russell hit into a fielder's choice on a run-saving diving play by SS Ryan Wehrle. Suttle fouled out as the Horns left runners on the corners.

The Horns got one run back in the bottom of seventh but, oh, what might have been. Chance Wheeless swatted a ground-rule double on the first pitch he saw while Stubbs opposite-field single into right put runners on the corners. Stubbs was thrown out trying to steal second and that brought Garrido out of the dugout to whisper a few sweet-nothings into the ears of the third base umpire. (Replays showed Stubbs beat the tag. Officially, it was just Stubbs fourth out in 21 attempted thefts); Kainer struck out but he took first on the wild pitch, plating Wheeless. Gorsett's falling grab against the wall in left field ended the Longhorn uprising but Texas narrowed the gap, 6-5.

"They made a couple of brilliant plays in key moments," Garrido said. "The left field catch, for example. That made a lot of difference."

Nebraska got the run back in the top of the eighth when Gorsett doubled to right and later crossed the plate on a two-out wild pitch. Walker issued three consecutive walks to load the bases but then fanned Nick Jaros on thee pitches. LHP Zach Herr took the mound for NU in the bottom of the inning and the Horns went quickly and quietly.

Freshman LHP Austin Wood came on in the top of the ninth after Walker threw 66 balls in 3.2 innings, both career highs. Wood produced a three-up, three-down inning to give Texas a chance. PH Hunter Harris drew a one-out walk before Wheeless flew out to center. Stubbs lined a 3-2 pitch into right field and that brought leading hitter Kainer to the plate. The called third strike elicited a chorus of boos from the partisan crowd on a pitch questionable enough to where the Huskers waited for the delayed signal to begin celebrating. It signaled the end of a two-day set where the strike zone, to put it kindly, fluctuated.

"I don't think (Texas players) were uncomfortable with what the strike zone was," Garrido said. "The fans were more involved with the strike zone than the team was."

Nebraska is slated to start All-American RHP Johnny Dorn while Texas will counter with RHP Adrian Alaniz, who was credited with the save Friday after tossing four pitches.

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