Lincoln - Facing one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the country in Andrew Morales, the Nebraska baseball team (9-7, 0-0 Big Ten) put up six runs on Friday night in front of 3,424 fans at Hawks Field, but it wasn’t enough as the No. 25 UC Irvine Anteaters (13-4) took the series opener with a 7-6 victory. The Huskers had the tying run at first base with two down in the bottom of the ninth, but Irvine closer Sam Moore got a groundball off the bat of Steven Reveles to earn his ninth save of the season.
Down three runs entering the ninth, freshman Ryan Bolt started things with a double down the left field line before Jake Placzek reached on a walk. Freshman Ben Miller then ripped a RBI single to left, while a fielder’s choice off the bat of Austin Darby plated Placzek to cut the deficit to one. But the Huskers were unable to come up with one more big hit, as an 0-1 pitch was grounded back to the pitcher to end the rally and the contest.
Morales, who hadn’t given up an earned run all season in 30.0 innings entering Friday, lasted just 4.2 innings and gave up three earned runs to the Huskers in the fifth. Nebraska starter Kyle Kubat didn’t last long either, as he fell to 0-1 on the year after giving up three runs on four hits and four walks in 3.0 innings of work.
At the plate, NU’s offense was paced by Boldt, who was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. In his first start since Feb. 22 after missing seven games with a hamstring injury, Reveles drove in a career-high two runs. On the night, Michael Pritchard saw his nation-leading on-base streak come to an end at 57 games with an 0-for-4 showing at the plate. The last game Pritchard didn’t reach was also against UC Irvine, last season on March 17 at Anteater Ballpark.
The Anteaters’ offense was powered by its 3-4-5-6 hitters, who each had a pair of hits, including preseason All-American Taylor Sparks who was 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs.
UC Irvine jumped out quickly with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. After Darby led off with a walk in the first for the Huskers, Morales retired the next 12 NU hitters in order. Austin Christensen produced the first Husker hit of the day to begin the fifth.
In the top of the fourth after retiring seven-straight Anteaters, Kubat got into a jam when he gave up a walk, a hit and then a pair of walks that gave UCI a 3-0 lead. Senior Bob Greco entered the game with the base loaded and proceeded to strike out the side to bring the crowd to its feet. Morales then quieted the crowd by retiring NU’s 2-3-4 hitters in order in the bottom of the fourth.
The Anteaters pushed their lead to 5-0 in the fifth when Sparks blasted a two-run homer that carried over the berm in left-center field. The Huskers responded in the bottom of the frame when Tanner Lubach drew a bases-loaded walk and a two-RBI single from Reveles that cut the Anteater lead to two at 5-3. The earned runs against Morales ended a streak of 34.1 innings of unblemished work.
After each team plated a run in the sixth, the Anteaters scored the eventual game-winning run in the top of the seventh. Reliever Jeff Chesnut got the first two outs of the inning, but then gave up three consecutive singles to Irvine’s 7-8-9 hitters that scored Justin Castro.
Due to impending weather on Sunday, the Huskers and Anteaters will play a doubleheader tomorrow. Game one is set to start at 12:05 p.m., with game two set to start 45 minutes after the completion of the first game.