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Huskers stumble; Postseason race tightens

The reigning regular season Big Ten champs road to the postseason just became tougher with Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Indiana.

Nebraska fell behind early as Luis Alvarado struggled on the mound.

Indiana jumped on Alvarado in the second when Drew Ashely hit a solo home run to give Indiana its first run of the day.

The long ball became a problem for Alvarado, giving up two more shots past the fence in the fourth inning. Indiana opened the fourth with a pair of singles before Luke Miller took Alvarado deep for a three-run home run. The Hoosiers went back-to-back, as Scotty Bradley followed suit with a solo shot of his own.

“This game was a tale of two different heights of pitches. Luis was throwing strikes – he didn’t walk anybody – but we were trying to go inside and he’s throwing up and away,” Erstad said after the game. “You get these guys’ arms extended and it’s probably not going to end up in your favor.”

In his final start at Haymarket Park, Alvarado gave up five runs off of nine hits through three innings pitched. The senior only struck out one on the day.

The past two trips to the mound for Alvarado have been shaky, giving up a combined 12 runs off of 11 hits while walking six. The senior has only been able to throw for 4.1 innings over those past two starts.

Nebraska’s bats loaded the bases early in the first inning after the first three hitters in the Husker lineup reached base safely. Luke Roskam drove in Mojo Hagge from third off a sacrifice fly to open the scoring for Nebraska. With runners on first and second, Gunner Hellstrom grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the scoring threat.

“We had a chance with nobody out to hopefully put up a crooked number, and we don’t,” Erstad said following the loss. “(Indiana’s Pauly Milto) settled in. Our guys kept coming back to the dugout saying they couldn’t see the spin on the slider. He’s pitching with great angle with his fastball, right below the knees, and then he’s throwing his slider off of that. We just couldn’t get underneath the baseball.”

The Big Red struggled to find traction after the first inning opportunity. 15 of the next 18 Huskers were retired until Nebraska was finally able to score again in the seventh. A pair of hits added one run in the seventh, while Jesse Wilkening’s solo shot to right field tacked on another in the eighth.

“We chased way, way too much. That right there’s one of those games where we know we’re facing a quality pitcher and we’ve got to find ways to get things going,” Erstad said on the lackluster offensive performance. “We had that first inning and weren’t able to get more than one out of it. (Indiana) settled in and we’re on the wrong side of it.”

The loss drops Nebraska to 10th in the Big Ten, but they are still in contention for the final eighth spot to make the conference tournament.

Remaining conference games (Fringe contenders)  
Team (Record) [Games back] Sun. (5/13) Thurs.-Sat. (5/17-5/19)
6. Indiana (10-9) [0 GB] @ No. 10 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Maryland
7. Iowa (9-9) [0 GB] @ No. 12 Northwestern vs. No. 13 Penn State
8. Michigan State (9-10) [0 GB] @ No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 4 Ohio State
9. Maryland (8-11) [1 GB] vs. No. 11 Rutgers @ No. 6 Indiana
10. Nebraska (7-11) [1.5 GB] vs. No. 6 Indiana @ No. 5 Illinois
11. Rutgers (7-13) [2.5 GB] @ No. 9 Maryland @ No. 1 Minnesota

It will be an uphill climb for Nebraska the rest of the way, likely needing to win three out of their last four games, if not all four. Fortunately for the Big Red, Michigan State faces the toughest schedule the rest of the way, and the Maryland/Indiana series should eliminate one of those schools.

Nebraska has one more game against Indiana before taking on Illinois in their final series of the season. Matt Warren (4-3) will start on the mound for Senior Day at Haymarket Park. The series rubber match is set to start at 11:05 a.m. (CT). You can listen to the game through the Huskers Sports Network or watch it on BTN+ ($)

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