Stanford, Calif. – Stanford took advantage of two costly Nebraska errors, scoring four times in a decisive seventh inning to take the rubber match of the series, 4-2, at a soggy Sunken Diamond Sunday evening.
The Huskers (1-2) took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, but could not get out of the frame unscathed, as the Cardinal put up four runs with two outs to take the series.
Cord Phelps began the rally by coaxing a walk from Aaron Pribanic after falling behind 0-2. Zach Jones than lined a game-tying double to the gap in right center off Erik Bird, who suffered the loss. Zach Herr came into face Sean Ratliff, who hit a grounder to second that Jake Opitz made a good play on, but threw wide of the bag for an error. Herr, who was backing up on the play, caught the ball and fired home to get Jones, but the ball slipped out of his hand and went high of the plate, allowing Jones to score the go-ahead run.
That play summed up a strange contest that took a day and a half to complete, as rain suspended the game on Saturday while the teams battled through the conditions throughout Sunday.
"We had a chance at the plate until that crazy play when the ball slipped out of Jake’s hand and he tried to make a tough play," Anderson said. "Zach made an incredible play backing up the throw, but lost the handle when he threw it. It is just one of those things. We were one pitch away from getting out of the inning."
Jason Castro then capped the four-run outburst with a two-run homer to stake the Cardinal a 4-1 lead.
The rally spoiled strong outings from Dan Jennings and Pribanic, who combined to hold Stanford scoreless until the seventh.
Jennings, who threw two shutout innings before play was halted on Saturday, pitched the first two innings on Sunday, as he fanned four and allowed one hit in his four innings. Pribanic tossed two shutout frames and had retired the first two hitters in the seventh before walking Phelps.
Nebraska opened the scoring in the fourth, getting a one-out RBI double from Cody Neer off Jeffrey Inman. Opitz singled to open the fourth before moving into scoring position on Jeff Tezak’s sacrifice bunt. Neer than ripped an 0-1 pitch to left, giving the Huskers an early advantage.
That would be the only run Inman allowed in his four innings of work, as the right-hander scattered three hits and struck out three to earn the victory.
Pribanic ran into some trouble in the sixth, as the Cardinals had three hits and a walk but a defensive gem by freshman shortstop Ben Kline snuffed out the rally. Jones opened the sixth with a single to center, but the Husker right-hander picked him off for the first out. A walk and two singles than loaded the bases before Pribanic worked out of the jam. He got pinch hitter Randy Molina to ground into a fielder’s choice at the plate before Jeff Whitlow’s low liner was snared by Kline, who dove to his right to catch the liner.
Down 4-1, the Huskers had a golden opportunity in the eight against closer David Stringer, putting together a two-out rally and getting the tying run on base. Opitz, who scored both of NU’s runs, singled to center before Tezak roped a double to right to pull Nebraska within two runs. Neer drew a walk to put runners on first and second, but Stringer struck out Mitch Abeita to squelch the threat and retired the side in order for the save.
Anderson was pleased with the Huskers’ effort in battling through the conditions, holding Stanford off the board until the seventh and nearly taking the series in their first extended action outdoors. The final game of the series was canceled because of the rain.
"I thought we played good defense and pitched well until the seventh." Anderson said. "All things considered, I thought we competed very hard for the first time out. There are things to work on and improvements to be made, but we wanted this situation, having to come out here and play competitive games early on. It helps us see where we are at and what we need to work on."
The Huskers will open the home portion of schedule on Friday, Feb. 29, as they begin a four-game series with UC Riverside. First pitch for Friday’s contest is set for 1:35 p.m., and general admission seats are available by visiting Huskers.com or calling the Nebraska Ticket Office at 800-8-BIGRED.