RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Nebraska never led in the first game. It never trailed in the second. The result was a doubleheader split in which the offense continued to make a statement in the season’s first series.
The Huskers (2-1) fell short in Saturday’s opener 10-9 before bouncing back with a 10-6 victory. Nebraska posted 21 runs Friday.
Sophomore Jaxon Hallmark continued his torrid start, going 3 for 4 in the nightcap with four RBIs. The outfielder is 8 for 14 with 10 RBIs after driving in a total of 24 runs a year ago.
“For having some uncertainty in our lineup going into the season, this shows we have some potential,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said during his postgame radio interview.
Nebraska nearly rallied all the way back in the opener after trailing 7-1 into the fifth inning. But with the bases loaded and two outs in a one-run game in the top of the ninth, Riverside reliever Kevin West induced a groundout to clinch the win.
Nebraska left runners in scoring position in eight innings — stranding 11 overall at second or third base — even as it scored runs in the final five innings. It had more hits (15-12) and fewer errors (1-2) than Riverside while all nine batters hit safely.
Momentum appeared to be on Nebraska’s side early in the eighth inning. The Huskers drew within 8-7 on a Cam Chick RBI single before Riverside escaped further damage with a 4-6-3 double play. The Highlanders tacked on two in the bottom half after a misplayed ball in the outfield kept the inning going for two insurance runs.
The Huskers mounted a one-out uprising in the ninth with an Alex Henwood walk and Spencer Schwellenbach’s hit along with RBI singles from Angelo Altavilla and Mojo Hagge. But down 10-9 with runners at the corners and one out, Aaron Palensky popped out on the infield. After an intentional walk to Luke Roskam loaded the bases, Chick grounded out to end the game.
“We left a lot on the table there,” Erstad said. “My goodness, we could have scored 20 more runs today. It was just a good lesson. We had a couple guys who were in big situations and you could tell they tightened up a little bit, weren’t in control of their at-bats. That’s going to happen early, but we have to learn from that.”
In his second career start, senior right-hander Reece Eddins allowed seven runs (five earned) in 3⅔ innings. Reliever Max Schreiber allowed one in 1⅓ and Mike Waldron retired eight straight batters before Riverside’s two-run eighth.
Pitching was more of an asset for Nebraska in the second contest. Lefty Nate Fisher threw five scoreless innings while striking out six in a game that didn’t have a run until Carter Cross’ RBI single in the fifth.
A pair of freshmen made their debuts during a high-leverage seventh. Kyle Perry came in with the bases loaded and sandwiched a walk and hit batter around a strikeout. Shay Schanaman then ended the Riverside threat with a three-pitch strikeout against the only hitter he faced to keep Nebraska’s lead at 5-3.
But the bullpen also had its adventures. Paul Tillotson (three earned runs), Robbie Palkert (one earned) and Jaxon Hallmark (a hit and walk allowed) all worked through struggles late in the white-knuckle finish.
“We’ve got some guys obviously dealing with some mental hurdles to get over some stuff and maintaining their stuff and getting through some tough times,” Erstad said. “But to go on the road right here and split the doubleheader and have a chance to win the series to start the season, I’ll take that.”
A three-run sixth extended NU’s lead to 4-0 courtesy of RBI hits from Roskam, Hallmark and Cross. It added three more in the eighth on scoring hits by Hallmark, Schwellenbach and Gunner Hellstrom.
The teams close their series Sunday at 3 p.m.
Nebraska…………..010 021 212— 9 15 1
UC Riverside……..400 301 02x—10 12 2
W: Ohl, 1-0. L: Eddins, 0-1. S: West, 1. 2B: NU, Palensky, Roskam, Henwood. UCR, Arnone, Sanchez.
Nebraska (2-1)………….000 013 132—10 12 3
UC Riverside (1-2)………..000 001 203— 6 9 2
W: Fisher, 1-0. L: Lyons, 0-1. 2B: NU, Roskam, Hallmark.