MANHATTAN, Kan. — Nebraska sophomore Austin Darby gave the Huskers a three-run lead with his second home run of the season, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with Kansas State on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats (17-8) scored three runs in the fifth and sixth innings before adding two more in the seventh to seal a 10-8 victory. The Huskers had won four straight against KSU before Tuesday.
Senior outfielder Chad Christensen represented the potential tying run in the ninth inning after he and junior Michael Pritchard hit back-to-back RBI infield singles, trimming the Wildcat lead to 10-8. But Darby flew out to end the game.
The loss marked the end of a 12-game road trip for Nebraska (8-15), which went 4-8 during that stretch. A lack of pitching depth surfaced as a key concern for the Huskers, who used eight arms Tuesday.
“We’ve been in trouble in the fifth and sixth innings, where we’ve just had a heck of a time trying to get people out,” NU coach Darin Erstad said during a postgame radio interview. “We’ll continue to try different guys there to see what they can do.”
Kansas State’s leadoff batter reached base in all five innings that the Wildcats scored.
There was a key fielding error by NU first baseman Kash Kalkowski, whose miscue allowed two runs to score in the fifth. But Kansas State totaled 12 hits, five walks and two hit batters. Ross Kivett finished with three hits and a career-high five RBIs.
“On the mound, when you hit leadoff guys and you give up walks, that’s what’s going to happen,” Erstad said.
The Husker offense couldn’t make up the difference, though it did generate some rallies but often with two outs.
It was Darby, batting with two runners on, who pulled a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall to put Nebraska up 5-2 in top of the fifth. That was NU’s first three-run home run of the year.
But the Huskers ended up leaving runners on second and third base in that inning. They also stranded two runners in the first. And they loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh and eighth innings, but couldn’t push across a run.
Nebraska, which hasn’t played at home since March 6, will host Northwestern (9-6, 2-1 Big Ten) for a three-game series that’s set to begin at 6:35 p.m. Friday.
Nebraska (8-15) .................... 020 030 102—8 14 2
At Kansas State (17-8) ......... 010 133 20x—10 13 1
W: MaVorhis, 2-0. L: Howell, 0-1. 2B: NU, Pritchard (4), Edrington (2), Darby (3), Kelly (4). KSU, Fisher (6), King 2 (7), Kivett (9). 3B: KSU, Witt (1). HR: NU, Darby (2).