College Station, Texas - A four-run sixth inning proved costly for the Nebraska baseball team, as No. 11 Texas A&M took the opener of the three-game series with a 7-3 victory Friday night at Olsen Field.
On a night where Nebraska (28-22, 7-14 Big 12) received a solid performance from Logan Ehlers, the freshman left-hander made one costly mistake, one which turned the tide for the Aggies in a tight contest.
With one out, he did not cover first on a one-out grounder off the bat of Kevin Gonzalez, as first baseman Kurt Farmer bobbled the hard-hit ball and did not reach first in time. After a walk put runners on first and second, a fielder's choice kept the inning alive, as the Huskers were not able to turn a double play on Kenny Jackson's grounder.
Casey Hauptman, who entered the game with a 1.48 ERA in 25 appearances, was unable to get the Huskers out of the frame, as the Aggies (34-16, 16-6 Big 12) strung together three straight hits to take the lead for good. Andrew Collazo tied the game at two as his seeing-eye single found a hole through the left side before Tyler Naquin's two-run single to center gave Texas A&M a two-run cushion. Kray Bratsen then made it a 5-2 contest, pushing across a pair of runs on a single to center.
"That sixth inning hurt us," Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson said. "We had a couple of plays that weren't errors, but plays we should have made to get out of the inning without giving up a run. Casey was the guy we wanted on the mound in that situation, and he has been solid for us all year. Unfortunately, we could not get out of the inning, but if we are that spot again, I would not hesitate going back to Casey."
Ehlers (1-3) pitched well in a hostile environment, allowing three runs - two earned - over a career high 5.2 innings in taking the loss, as he allowed one unearned run over the first five frames.
"Logan pitched with Friday night stuff, but that play showed his inexperience," Anderson said. "He had great stuff, showed good location and used his off speed well tonight."
Naquin went 3-for-5 to pace Texas A&M while Bratsen and Charlie Curl drove in two runs apiece for the Aggies, who received a strong performance from Michael Wacha. The Aggie starter allowed two runs and fanned a career-high 12 Huskers over seven innings to improve to 6-3 on the season.
The game shaped up to be a pitchers' duel early on, as it was a 2-1 game heading to the sixth.
The Aggies got on the scoreboard in the third, taking advantage of a Husker error to get on the board. With two outs and runners on the corners, Gregg Alcazar's grounder went under the glove of Chad Christensen, allowing Naquin, who opened the frame with a single to extend his hit streak to 26 games, to scoot home from third. Ehlers got out of further trouble by fanning Kevin Gonzalez to end the frame and worked out of the trouble until the sixth.
The Huskers got to Wacha in the top of the fourth, getting a pair of runs to regain the lead. Cody Asche opened the frame with a double before Kale Kiser's single two batters later put runners on the corners. Kurt Farmer tied the score with a grounder to second to score Asche before Christensen, who had two hits on the night, plated Kiser with a single to right center.
Asche went 2-for-3 with a pair of double and two runs scored, climbing to fifth on NU's single-season doubles list with 23, while Michael Pritchard continued his torrid hitting with three hits on the evening.
The Huskers cut the lead to 5-3 in the top of the eighth, as Asche doubled and eventually scored on Kiser's ground out, but the Aggies got some insurance runs in the bottom of the frame as Curl came through with a bases-loaded, two-run single just beyond the reach of an outstretched Tanner Krietemeier.
The Huskers and Aggies continue the series Saturday afternoon at 2:05 p.m., and the game will be on the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com.