LINCOLN — The Huskers, confident after a strong weekend performance, were in a similar position the last time they played Kansas State.
And the Wildcats drilled them.
K-State won 9-1 on April 2 in Manhattan, Kan., holding Nebraska to five hits while capitalizing on three NU errors, three walks and three hit batsmen.
It was the Huskers' largest margin of defeat since they were shut out during the season's first weekend by now-No. 4 Cal State Fullerton. Right when it seemed Nebraska had figured it all out, too — the Huskers were coming off a 3-0 weekend against Northwestern before that disastrous defeat at Kansas State.
And this time, the Huskers (19-19) enter their midweek matchup against KSU riding a five-game winning streak, a stretch that might have NU inching back into the conversation for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
But Kansas State (28-13), eying a season series sweep, won't make things easy Wednesday.
“We're going to have to play very well,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “It's important for us to continue to string some wins together to make this thing interesting.”
There is little margin for error, though.
Since the NCAA restructured its postseason format in 1999, no Big Ten team with fewer than 35 wins has earned an at-large invite. Nebraska has 15 regular-season games remaining (maybe 16 if it can reschedule a canceled game with Creighton).
NU is a top-40 team in unofficial RPI ratings, one of the metrics used by the NCAA selection committee. But winning is most important for Nebraska now, Erstad said.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do to get to that point,” he said. “But that's enough motivation in itself.”
The Wildcats are building a résumé that could be postseason-worthy as well. They began April with a six-game winning streak and are 4-3 since. They're in third place in the Big 12 and just inside the RPI top 40.
Kansas State will start right-hander Jake Doller (2-2, 2.08 ERA) against Nebraska righty Brandon Pierce (1-3, 5.20) at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday. The game was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday, but was moved because of weather.
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