Baseball takes UNL down to the wire

Photo Courtesy of Omaha Baseball

Ray Koch

They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades, but the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s baseball team ought to be proud of their performance against in-state rival University of Nebraska at Lincoln Wednesday at Werner Park.

The Mavs showed they are not what their record says they are. Its clash with Nebraska was supposed to be a one-sided affair in favor of the Big-10 Cornhuskers. Instead, fans witnessed a tense, 9-inning chess match that could have gone either way. The Mavs had the Huskers up against the ropes much of the game, but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow to finish the upset, as the Huskers defeated Omaha 3-1.

In a game with nine starters from the Omaha metro area, Evan Porter made a bold decision to start senior Shane Meltz, who was 0-3 with an 8.38 ERA. The decision showed the brilliance of the young Maverick coach as Meltz did his job, holding the Huskers to one run in three innings of work.

“Meltz sets the tone for us when he goes out there as a starter,” Porter said.

In the bottom half of the second inning with Nebraska leading 1-0, the Mavs got the first two runners on, thanks to two errors by Lincoln third baseman, Luke Roskam. With Omaha eager to jump at the changing momentum, Parker Smejkal roped a double into left field to score Ryan Cate. Nebraska was able to limit the damage by getting Sam Palensky to pop-up with the bases loaded to get out of the jam with only allowing one run.

UNO faced a bases loaded jam in the third with Lincoln’s best hitter Scott Schreiber up. Schreiber laced a line drive that drilled Meltz in the leg, but the senior was able to recover and make the throw to first to preserve the tie.

“Getting that one timely hit has been our enemy all season,” Porter said. “We just have to keep grinding and keep battling, and it will pay off.”

Following the steps of its big brother, Omaha loaded up the bases as well in the third inning. With UNO’s patience at the plate amounting to base runners, Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad was prompted to make a call to the bullpen. A new arm was all the Huskers needed to stymie the Mavs hopes of taking the lead, as Nate Fisher retired two straight batters to end the peril.

With Nebraska up against the wall, Omaha left the bases loaded in two separate innings, shifting the momentum of the game. After holding the Mavs, Nebraska scored an unearned run on a wild pitch with two outs in the sixth inning.

James Smith, who came in relief for Omaha, shut down the Huskers for three innings before surrendering the unearned run.

For much of the game, Omaha had Nebraska right where they wanted them.

“We had a great approach all game, and I felt like we had good plate discipline,” Porter said. “Just one hit away.”