Cal Poly baseball coach Larry Lee said Thursday night there are no easy answers for what the Mustangs are going through offensively this season.
The injury-depleted Mustangs were held to seven hits — four of them coming with two outs in the seventh inning — on the way to a 3-2 loss against Nebraska in the opener of a four-game nonconference series inside Baggett Stadium.
Cal Poly (7-13) was held largely in check by the Cornhuskers’ pitching staff, with the top five hitters in the batting order going a combined 1-for-19. The lone hit was a single off the bat of catcher Nick Meyer in the ninth inning.
“It’s really been kind of a big problem all year,” Lee said. “We consistently don’t swing the bat very well and really we should. We have enough quality hitters in the lineup.”
Looking for help
Junior right-handed pitcher Erich Uelmen turned in another sharp outing on the mound, but the Mustang offense struggled to provide him with run support.
Uelmen (1-4) allowed two earned runs on four hits over six innings, to go with five strikeouts and one walk. Cal Poly has been shut out in three of Uelmen’s six starts this season.
Relievers Michael Clark, Trent Shelton and Slater Lee did not allow a hit over the final three innings.
“Our pitching has been really good,” Lee said.
Nebraska starter Jake Hohensee scattered three hits and allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked one.
Reliever Jake McSteen allowed Cal Poly’s second run, and Robbie Palkert and Luis Alvarado combined for five strikeouts and no walks in the final 2 1/3 innings.
How they scored
The Cornhuskers (10-9) took advantage of two Cal Poly miscues in the opening frame, scoring once on an errant pick-off attempt to first base and another on a rare wild pitch from Uelmen.
Nebraska added to its lead in the sixth when Ben Miller — a 6-foot-4, 275-pound senior first baseman — hit an RBI double into the gap in right center field.
Cal Poly showed some signs of life in the seventh, stringing together four straight two-out singles.
Designated hitter Scott Ogrin and pinch hitter Myles Emmerson — both true freshmen — hit back-to-back RBI singles to pull the Mustangs within 3-2.
It was Emmerson’s first collegiate hit in nine at-bats this season.
“You can be in the ballgame, but you need to figure out a way to manufacture some runs,” Lee said. “It was a struggle just to put up two runs.”
Cal Poly and Nebraska will meet in the second game of the series at 2 p.m. Friday. That game was originally scheduled for 6 p.m., but was moved up because of anticipated rain.
Sophomore right-hander Spencer Howard (1-0, 1.54 ERA) is projected to start on the mound for the Mustangs. The Cornhuskers will counter with senior Derek Burkamper (1-2, 3.78).
A 1 p.m. doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday.