With ace pitchers dueling and keeping the basepaths clean, Maryland and Nebraska needed to capitalize when their runners were lucky enough to get into scoring position.
Nebraska did so more often, and that made the difference.
The Cornhuskers used small ball to get three runs across, and that was plenty of support for starter Jake Hohensee, whose 8.1 quick innings guided Nebraska to a 3-1 win in Lincoln on Friday.
In his first year coming back from Tommy John surgery, Hohensee put together a career-best start that featured personal bests in innings and strikeouts (8). The junior right-hander went nearly eight full innings between allowing hits before coach Darin Erstad pulled him with runners on second and third.
Down 3-0, Maryland led off the ninth with a single by center fielder Zach Jancarski. Two batters later, right fielder Marty Costes reached on a double that left fielder Luis Alvarado seemed to misjudge.
Erstad took Alvarado immediately out of left field and sent him to the mound to close out the game. First baseman Brandon Gum lined an RBI single up the middle, but Alvarado retired the next two batters to save his fifth game of the year.
Nebraska positioned itself to win with the three runs it grinded to get in the early innings.
Catcher Jesse Wilkening led off the third inning taking a curveball to the shoulder. A single by second baseman Jake Schleppenbach gave Nebraska a bunt opportunity that right fielder Mojo Hagge executed soundly. Third baseman Angelo Altavilla then brought in Wilkening with a sacrifice fly.
Maryland starter Brian Shaffer, who has picked up strikeouts in bunches in recent outings, spent Friday pitching to contact, jamming Nebraska hitters with inside fastballs. Struggling to muster hard contact, the Cornhuskers had to shorten up their swings and pray to find holes in the defense.
The strategy worked in the fourth inning.
First baseman Ben Miller fought off an inside pitch and muscled it just enough to bloop it over second baseman Nick Dunn. Alvarado then took advantage of the deep defensive positioning of third baseman AJ Lee and layed down a bunt that Shaffer couldn’t get to in time.
The right-handed Wilkening came through with two outs, shooting a double down the right field line to drive in two runs.
Of the six Nebraska hits that left the infield, four were hit to the opposite side of second base.
Before the ninth, the only other appearance a Maryland runner made at second base came in the third. Jancarski took first on a hit by pitch, stole second and tagged up to third. But Costes flew out harmlessly to left and stranded Jancarski.
Shaffer pitched a complete game, giving up eights hits and striking out four in eight innings. Nebraska spoiled Shaffer’s four-game winning streak and handed him his second loss of the season.
Maryland also lost a four-game winning streak and will try to get back in the win column Saturday at 3:05 p.m.