Now's not the time for a team-wide funk at the plate, but Nebraska seems to have stumbled into a slump.
The Huskers were swept by 24th-ranked Oklahoma State in a doubleheader Saturday, unable to capitalize on limited scoring chances during the first game's 5-3 loss in 10 innings before struggling to solve an efficient left-hander in a 4-0 loss at TD Ameritrade Park.
On the heels of a five-game winning streak, NU (19-23) has suddenly fallen flat, losing four straight and possibly headed for a weeklong reassessment of its offensive approach.
The Huskers are the Big Ten's first-place team — by .006 percentage points over Minnesota — but a lineup that's carried them thus far has not been as productive during the first two days of the TD Ameritrade Classic. And it all starts with the hitters' mindsets, NU coach Darin Erstad said.
“We've hit more fly balls in this (ballpark) than I think in the last three weeks combined,” Erstad said.
He wants line drives, preferably to the opposite field. When Nebraska's offense is at its best, that's typically how the hitters do their damage.
But even with Oklahoma State left-hander Tyler Nurdin attacking the outside part of the plate in Saturday's second game — most often with a fastball early in the count — the Huskers couldn't get comfortable.
Nurdin needed just 94 pitches to throw his first complete game of the season. The left-hander allowed just four singles, and only one of those — an infield dribbler — came in the first five innings. He induced five infield popups and six shallow flyouts while striking out four.
The Huskers' best scoring chance came in the sixth when they put runners on second and third with two outs. But Chad Christensen rolled out to second base to end the threat.
“We're just not having those at-bats over and over where we're fighting and making a pitcher throw multiple pitches,” Erstad said. “We're taking way too many fastballs away, and we're lunging at pitches away. That's our whole offense — set up off dominating pitches away.”
Nebraska had more opportunities during its first game. Problem was, NU couldn't get the big hit.
After taking a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, the Huskers put a man on third with one out, but that rally ended when sophomore Pat Kelly grounded into a double play. With the game tied at 3, Nebraska had a runner on third with two outs in the eighth and ninth innings, but never did drive him home.
NU hitters were 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position in that first game Saturday. They were 2 for 14 in that category during a 5-3 loss against Creighton on Friday night.
“We left a little bit out there in the first game (Saturday), where we could have extended our lead,” Erstad said.
Nebraska came into the week leading the Big Ten in batting average (.348) and runs per game (8.6) during league play, but the Huskers have just six runs and 24 hits in three losses this weekend.
Strong starts by sophomore Aaron Bummer (two runs in six innings) and senior Tyler Niederklein (one run over five) kept Saturday's games from getting out of hand. But the NU bullpen eventually cracked against the Cowboys (31-11).
After Nebraska took a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, Nebraska reliever Josh Roeder entered with runners on first and second in the eighth. He was one strike away from getting out of the jam. But Oklahoma State's Robbie Rea reached out and poked a 0-2 pitch into right field, tying the game at 3 with a two-out single.
Rea also had a two-out RBI in the 10th, singling in a run after senior shortstop Randy McCurry broke the tie with a run-scoring double off Roeder.
In game two, freshman Jeff Chesnut was tagged for three runs during 1-1/3 innings of work.
The Huskers next play Rutgers at 1 p.m. Sunday at TD Ameritrade Park.
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