BASEBALL: COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON 7, NEBRASKA 3
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — Nebraska fell behind early for the second straight day and its offense didn't get on track until it was too late in a 7-3 loss to College of Charleston on Sunday afternoon.
The Huskers (1-2), who trailed by seven after two innings in a 13-5 defeat Saturday, were down 4-0 after the first two innings of the series rubber match. They didn't record a hit until the fifth inning Sunday and they didn't score until the eighth.
Coach Darin Erstad said his pitchers struggled to get ahead early in counts all weekend, and the Cougars (2-1) took advantage. Meanwhile, he said, the NU lineup couldn't consistently get itself into hitter's counts.
"This was a weekend of count leverage," Erstad said in a postgame radio interview. "They just pounded the zone — and we tried to swing early and they made quality pitches. ... And when you get behind in the counts, you either walk them or you give up lasers because they've got good counts to hit in."
Starting pitcher Zack Engelken never did settle in Sunday, giving up a two-run homer and leaving two runners on when he was pulled in the second. He was charged with four earned runs.
The Cougars stretched their lead to 7-0 when they capitalized on a few mistakes by junior reliever Max Knutson. He hit a batter and walked another before giving up a two-run double and a sacrifice fly.
"We have to find a way to throw more strikes," Erstad said.
Junior right-hander Hayden McCutcheon had no problem doing that Sunday for College of Charleston.
He went ahead 0-2 on 11 of 23 batters. He struck out eight. The only two hits he allowed were singles by junior first baseman Ben Miller.
McCutcheon had a 5.26 ERA last year, striking out 27 in 391⁄3 innings. But the Huskers couldn't get good swings against McCutcheon's sinker-slider mix, Erstad said.
"We tried to make a box adjustment and get the ball up a little bit — and he just kept pounding it," Erstad said. "He pitched really well."
Nebraska did break through late in the game, scoring twice on a two-out single by Miller in the eighth. Senior shortstop Steven Reveles added his first career home run in the ninth inning.
But it wasn't enough against a College of Charleston team that has reached two straight NCAA regionals.
The Huskers got their leadoff man on in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings — but never advanced him past second base. They left eight runners on base.
They finished the weekend 7 of 34 (.206) with runners in scoring position.
"We've got a lot of room to improve, just like we said after we won Friday night," Erstad said.