Tigers Strike First, But Fall To Nebraska, 5-3

Pacific Baseball - Photo by: Amy Moore
Pacific Baseball - Photo by: Amy Moore

Stockton, Calif. - Kicking off the 2014 season with their bats hot, the Pacific Baseball team struck first, but in the end fell to the host Cornhuskers of Nebraska in the opening game of the Husker Classic on Friday, Feb. 14. The contest was the first for both teams as the tournament took place at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

Overall, Pacific's offense was ahead of the curve early in the season as the Tigers tallied 10 hits on the day. However, the hits came in scattered form as the Husker bullpen was able to keep Pacific off the board for the final five innings, which proved to be the difference. 

The Tigers got off to a quick start in the new season as the Sullivan brothers combined to put a run on the board in the first inning of play. Jumping out front immediately, junior Tyler Sullivan led the game off with a double to left center before moving to third on a balk. Just 90 feet from scoring, Sullivan was able to trot home when sophomore Brett Sullivan slashed a single back up the middle.

Pacific made it a three-run game in the fourth when the offense was able to dent the plate twice more. Right in the middle of the action was the younger Sullivan as Brett singled right back up the middle once again to begin the inning. The shot over second base was nearly identical to his single in the first and set off a string of Tigers reaching base. Working the count, the heart of the Tigers' order, senior Riley Drongesen and sophomore Gio Brusa, each took free passes that put runners on every base for senior Erik Lockwood. Having singled in his first at bat in the second, Lockwood made it 2-for-2 with a sharp single through the right-side of the infield, plating Sullivan and Drongesen for a pair of RBI. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they would not be able to capitalize further and break open the game as they left a pair of runners on, starting a theme for the rest of the game.

Up 3-0, the Tigers got into trouble in the bottom half of the fourth as junior starter Michael Hager lost control after a strong start. Walking two and giving up a single, Hager found himself in a second jam he would not be able to pitch out of. Facing the top of the lineup with the bases loaded, Hager relinquished a triple to Ryan Boldt that cleared the bases and knotted the contest at 3-3. He would strand Boldt at third with his fourth strikeout of the game, but the final out of the fourth would be his last batter.

After the fourth, the two teams went to their bullpens with the Huskers' pen coming out on top. One mistake was all it took for the Huskers' to take the game as Nebraska scored two runs in the seventh behind a pair of hits. The biggest hit came from Michael Pritchard, who laced an RBI triple to center field, his second triple of the game and third for the Huskers in the spacious Tempe Diablo park. He would score on a sacrifice fly to left that was the final tally of the game.

For the Tigers, the offense was just off the mark late as Pacific threatened in four of the final five innings of play only to be denied by the Huskers. In the fifth, sixth, and eighth innings, the Tigers put runners on the corners and again in the ninth had a runner at third after B. Sullivan lined a two-out triple. However, each inning Pacific would strand the runner at third as the Tigers left 10 on base including six in scoring position.

Overall, B. Sullivan led the way with a 3-for-4 effort in the season opener as he added one RBI. T. Sullivan added two more hits while Lockwood posted a 2-for-4 day with two RBI. Senior Jason Taasaas (0-1) was tagged with the loss as he gave up two hits and two runs in the seventh as the third Tiger reliever to enter the game. 

The Huskers' Bob Greco (1-0) picked up the win in relief as he threw 2.0 innings while allowing two hits and one walk while striking out three. Josh Roeder earned the save as he closed out the ninth inning for Nebraska while giving up one hit and striking out one.

Starters Hager and Christian DeLeon both pitched through four innings while DeLeon going 4.1 before giving way to the pen. Hager allowed four hits, three runs and struck out four while walking four. DeLeon allowed seven hits and three runs while striking out three and walking three.

Pacific is back in action on Saturday, Feb. 15 when the Tigers take on Gonzaga at 6:00 pm PST. The two teams meet in out-of-conference play despite both being members of the WCC.