Huskers Fall in Regional Opener
Lincoln - The Nebraska baseball team kept pressure on Chris Cody, but the Manhattan left-hander kept the Huskers off the scoreboard except for a lone run in the fourth inning, as the Jaspers advanced in the winner's bracket with a 4-1 victory over NU in the first game of the NCAA Lincoln Regional at Hawks Field on Friday afternoon.
The Huskers, who entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 6 national seed, slipped to 42-16 on the season and will meet the loser of Friday's second game between Miami and San Francisco in Saturday's first elimination game of the regional at 1:05 p.m.
Manhattan, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament champions, improved to 33-21 on the year and will meet the winner of Friday's second game on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
In a classic pitchers' duel, Cody (12-2) outlasted Husker ace Joba Chamberlain, who dipped to 6-5. Cody tossed his ninth complete game of the season, allowing just one run on eight hits while striking out seven Huskers. Cody did a masterful job of pitching out of trouble throughout the game, leaving at least one Husker on base in every inning except the first, while stranding runners in scoring position in each of the last four innings.
Chamberlain (6-5) gave up just six hits in 7.1 innings and struck out eight but was charged with four earned runs.
The Huskers actually out-hit the Jaspers 8-7 on the afternoon, but Nebraska was never able to overcome a pair of back-to-back home runs by Manhattan's Matt Rizzotti and John Fitzpatrick on consecutive pitches to lead off the second inning.
After retiring the Jaspers in order in the first inning, Chamberlain surrendered a lead-off home run to right-center field to Rizzotti, Manhattan's cleanup hitter.
On the next pitch, Fitzpatrick made it 2-0 with his solo home run to left-center field. Chamberlain gave up one more single in the inning before retiring the side, then cruised through the Manhattan order until running into trouble again in the top of the eighth inning.
Cody, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, carried a shutout into the fourth inning before Nebraska put one run on the scoreboard.
All-Big 12 first baseman Brandon Buckman led off with a single and moved to second on a single by Andrew Brown. Andy Gerch then laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third with one out for Jeff Christy, who lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Buckman.
With two outs, Jake Opitz grounded out to shortstop to end the inning and leaving the tying run at second base.
Chamberlain continued to cruise on the hill, and the Huskers mounted another threat in the sixth inning on Brown's one-out triple off the 403-foot sign in left-center. NU was unable to tie the score though, as Gerch grounded out to a drawn-in Rene Ruiz at short, before Christy struck out to end the inning.
The Jaspers went down in order in the seventh, and Nebraska kept the pressure on Cody as Opitz led off with a sharp single down the right-field line in the bottom of the frame. After a failed sacrifice attempt, Nick Jaros hit a sharp grounder to second to force Opitz at second, but Ryan Marcoux's throw to first sailed out of play to put Jaros at second with two outs.
Cody escaped harm again by getting Bryce Nimmo to ground out to shortstop on a close play at first to end the Huskers' half of the seventh.
In the top of the eighth, MAAC Tournament MVP Eric Nieto led off with a single, before Nick Derba popped out on a sacrifice bunt attempt for the first out.
Nieto then stole second and advanced to third on a single by Mike Garcia to put runners at the corners with one out. Chamberlain was replaced on the hill by Zach Herr, who was called for the first balk of his career while facing Rizzotti.
Nieto scored on the balk to give Manhattan a 3-1 lead, while Garcia advanced to second. Rizzotti then fisted a single to left field to drive in Garcia to give the Jaspers a 4-1 lead.
The Huskers continued to pressure Cody, as third-team All-American shortstop Ryan Wehrle led off the Huskers' half of the eighth with a double to right field. But Buckman lined out sharply to shortstop to keep Wehrle at second with one out.
Wehrle moved up to third on Brown's groundout to second, before Gerch went down looking to end the inning.
Erik Bird retired the Jaspers in order in the ninth, and Nebraska again threatened in the bottom of the inning as Opitz and Jaros both managed infield singles to third base. With two outs, Luke Gorsett, who was a late addition to the Nebraska roster after suffering back spasms at last week's Big 12 Tournament, stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game.
But Gorsett's fly ball to medium-deep center field was secured by Garcia to end another NU threat and the game.