Dons Down Huskers
Lincoln - The top-seeded Nebraska baseball team saw its 2006 season come to an end with a 5-1 loss to third-seeded San Francisco in Saturday's first game of the NCAA Lincoln Regional at Hawks Field.
With the loss, the No. 6 national seed Huskers ended the year with a 42-17 record. San Francisco, which was making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in baseball, earned its first-ever tournament victory and survived to play on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. against the loser of tonight's 7:05 p.m. contest between No. 2 seed Miami and No. 4 seed Manhattan. The Dons improved to 39-22 on the season.
After stranding runners on base in each of the final eight innings in a 4-1 loss to Manhattan on Friday, the Huskers continued to struggle to score runs on Saturday, stranding eight runners against the Dons, including leaving the bases loaded in the sixth inning. NU stranded one in the second and one in the third before Andy Gerch hit his fourth homer of the season, a long solo blast in the fourth inning, to give the Huskers their only run of the day.
The Huskers stranded another runner in scoring position in the fifth, before back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth inning appeared to give Nebraska a promising opportunity. But the Huskers were unable to cash in with the bases loaded and two outs and also stranded a pair of runners in the seventh.
After the Huskers missed out on a chance to score runs in the top of the sixth, the Dons registered a run in the bottom of the sixth and closed the scoring with Joey Railey's second home run of the season, a solo shot to left field, to close the door on the Huskers' comeback hopes.
San Francisco starter Aaron Poreda did a masterful job of pitching out of trouble throughout the game, allowing just one run on four hits in 6.2 innings of work. The sophomore left-hander struck out five, walked three and hit a pair of NU hitters, while improving to 8-5 on the season.
San Francisco jumped to an early lead in the second inning off NU starter Tony Watson (10-2), scoring a trio of unearned runs in a series of strange events.
Stefan Gartrell led off the inning with a routine-looking ground ball to second base that took a bad hop as Jake Opitz moved over to make the play for the Huskers. The ball went right over Opitz's glove and into right field.
After Blake Nelson fouled out, Chris Bacigalupi singled through the hole at second base on a hit-and-run play to put runners at the corners with one out for the Dons.
After Daniel Morales struck out, Gartrell then was granted home plate after Watson was called for just his third balk of the season. The Dons took a 1-0 lead and Bacigalupi moved into scoring position at second base.
Railey then hit a slow roller to shortstop that Ryan Wehrle fielded and threw wide and in the dirt at first base, getting past Brandon Buckman. Bacigulpi scored on the play and Railey advanced to second on the throwing error. Railey then moved up to third base on the second balk of the inning called on Watson.
Lucas DeLong then laid down a bunt up the third base line that was fielded by Watson, who turned and threw late to first base as Railey raced home to score and give the Dons a 3-0 lead without hitting a ball out of the infield.
Nebraska managed five hits against San Francisco, which produced just six hits of its own on the afternoon.