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Nebraska baseball splits doubleheader in polar opposite displays

Huskers Angelo Altavilla Doubleheader

Huskers split the opening games against Iowa Baseball in Friday doubleheader

It’s been nearly three weeks since the Husker faithful have seen Nebraska play ball in Haymarket park. With inclement weather in the forecast for the weekend, Big Red fans were treated to a Friday doubleheader between the Huskers (15-16) and Big Ten foe Iowa (20-10).

Game One of Friday’s doubleheader

Looking to get things going early, Nebraska jumped ahead scoring one run in the bottom of the first inning. An E5 by Zac Repinski and a Scott Schreiber single would bring junior Jesse Wilkening to the plate with runners in position to score. Struggling over the last few series, Wilkening would not disappoint today, delivering an RBI single up the middle to score Zac Repinski from second base.

Coach Erstad would start Luis Alvarado’s (2-3) on the mound against Iowa. Alvarado would find the zone early on striking out a pair of Hawkeye batters in the first.

After two quick outs in the second inning, Alvarado began to struggle with his control. The senior walked two batters and gave up a single to load the bases. With the bases juiced, Alvarado delivered his second a wild pitch of the inning to tie the game and advance the runners for Iowa.

Alvarado’s command issues continued in the fourth as he hit his second batter on the day and gave up a double off the wall in left field to put runners in scoring position. With one out, Jake McSteen entered the game to replace Alvarado on the mound. McSteen gave up a double over the head of Schreiber to score two for Iowa, giving the Hawkeyes a 3-1 lead.

Alvarado gave up three runs off of three hits in 3.1 innings pitched. Most of the damage against Alvarado came from free passes as the Husker senior couldn’t find his control, surrendering three walks and hitting an additional two batters.

“You got to be able to command your pitches when you’re a starting pitcher,” head coach Darin Erstad said of Alvarado’s command issues. “He’s learning a lot as he’s going through being a starter here. We’re going to have to look at it pretty seriously with what we’re gonna do.”

The 3.1 IP marks the shortest start of the year for Alvarado. His previous shortest start came from his last outing, throwing just four innings against Michigan State.

Iowa tacked on four more runs across the eighth and ninth inning thanks in large part to four doubles. The four extra runs were more than enough for the Hawkeyes to coast to victory, winning game one by a score of 7-1.

The Husker bats struggled with runners on base, hitting a lowly .176 (3-17). The Big Red grounded into four double plays.

On the mound, Nebraska couldn’t put Iowa away with two outs. The Hawkeyes hit .467 (7-15) after Husker pitchers retired the first two, scoring five of its runs with their backs against the wall.

Game One Husker MVP – Jake McSteen – McSteen was the only Husker pitcher who didn’t give up a run on the day. The junior left-hander tossed 2.2 scoreless innings, giving up only one hit while striking out three. More importantly, this was McSteen’s second outing since going down with an arm injury earlier in the year that many feared would end his season or even career. His last time out he was only able to register one out, giving up one run off of one hit. This time around McSteen was able to pitch multiple solid innings, displaying nice touch on all of his pitches. Nebraska’s pitching has underperformed this year, but Erstad and pitching coach Ted Silva may be able to breathe a little easier if McSteen is able to replicate outings like this.

Husker Baseball Jake McSteen

Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Game Two of Friday’s Doubleheader

Iowa picked up right where they left off, opening the scoring in the top of the first inning. After forcing a flyout to right field, Matt Waldron (2-2) gave up a solo home run to Iowa’s Robert Neustrom.

Nebraska ended its nine-inning scoring drought in the bottom of the third inning. Gunner Hellstrom led the inning off with a single up the middle, and after back-to-back flyouts, Wilkening delivered a two-run home run into right field to give Nebraska the lead. The Huskers tacked on two more runs in the inning after Angelo Altavilla homered to right as well, scoring himself and Luke Roskam.

Iowa answered in the fourth with a two-run home run of its own. Neustrom led off the inning for the Hawkeyes with a single through the right side of the infield, followed by a home run to left field from Tyler Cropley to cut Nebraska’s lead down to one.

The Huskers responded in the bottom of the fifth with another home run. Altavilla stepped up to the plate and delivered a solo shot to right for his second home run of the day, extending Nebraska’s lead to two.

The Big Red added four more to its lead in the bottom of the seventh. After Wilkening worked a walk, Roskam launched an RBI double in the left-center gap to start the scoring in the inning. The Huskers loaded the bases after a Jaxon Hallmark single and Ben Klenke walk to bring up Alex Henwood. The junior grounded out to the right side of the infield, but the quality at bat scored Roskam from third. Hellstrom, who reached base safely in every plate appearance, delivered a two-RBI double to give the Huskers a 9-3 lead.

Waldron pitched seven innings for Nebraska, retiring twelve batters in a row before Paul Tillotson replaced him to begin the eighth. Waldron gave up three runs off of three hits, walking one while striking out four. All of the runs scored on Waldron came off the longball.

The Huskers tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth before Mike Waldron came in for relief. Iowa hit a two-out solo home run in the ninth, but Waldron was able to finish the game with a strikeout to secure the 10-4 victory in the second game of the doubleheader.

Nebraska flipped a switch in the second game, reversing all the trends we saw in the first game of the day. At the plate, the Big Red hit .333 (6-18) with runners on base, including six RBIs coming with two outs.

On the mound, Nebraska found a way to silence Iowa’s bats. The Hawkeyes hit a pedestrian .161 (5-31) at the dish and only .182 (2-11) with two outs in the second game.

Game Two Husker MVP – Angelo Altavilla – April 1st was the last time Altavilla held a bat in his hands and faced competitive pitching in a live environment. Gelo, who was frustrated with not playing and his nagging injury, welcomed himself back into the lineup with two home runs and a walk in his 2-4 display. Altavilla hit just one home run in over 350 of his past at bats. As great as it is to see Altavilla take his frustration out and hit the cover off of not one, but two baseballs, it’s even better to see him back in the lineup and showing early signs of consistency. Altavilla struggled through the first half of the season, and if Nebraska looks to be competitive heading into postseason play, they will need their junior leader to find his form.

The 10-4 victory gives Waldron his third win of the year, as the split doubleheader sees Nebraska advance to 16-17 on the year, 3-7 in conference play. The rubber match of the series is set for Sunday, with first pitch due at 1 p.m. (subject to weather). Matt Warren (3-2) is expected to start on the hill for the Big Red. You can listen to the Sunday matchup through the Huskers Sports Network, or watch the game on ESPNU.

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