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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Panthers fall in game one of NCAA tournament

LINCOLN, Neb. – Eastern lost 13-10 to Nebraska in the opening game of the Lincoln Nebraska Regional of the 2008 NCAA Baseball Tournament.

The no. 4-seeded Panthers (27-29) will play in the elimination game tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. against no. 3-seed Oral Roberts (46-13). Oral Roberts lost 7-9 to no. 2-seed University of California Irvin (39-16).

Panthers Coach Jim Schmitz said lefty Tyler Kehrer will start the game. Kehrer is 1-5 in 61 and one-third innings pitched with a 4.55 earned run average this season.

Eastern could face Nebraska for a rematch on Sunday if both teams win on Saturday.

Schmitz said the his team’s ultimate downfall in the 13-10 loss was the lack of clutch pitching. All four of Eastern’s pitchers gave up at least two runs.

He said the pitching staff needs to settle down if the team is to advance to a third game in the tournament.

The no. 1-seed Huskers (41-14-1) scored first in Friday’s contest, and did so for the first time in seven games.

Head Coach Mike Anderson said the goal was to get the initial runs and prevent the hot hitting Panthers from riding momentum early in the game because his Huskers were not offensively in tune.

The combined 23 runs were more than either team expected. The Huskers scored at least one run in every inning except the second.

“We’re two teams who don’t hit home runs, but we (collectively) hit seven home runs,” Anderson said. “I don’t think it was the wind, but when it got humid the ball really started to fly.”

Eastern hit three of the seven home runs. Center fielder Brett Nommensen didn’t hit any of the home runs, but he lead the Panthers with four runs batted in on two singles and a double.

Nebraska’s catcher Mitch Abeita was one of three Huskers to bat in three runs, but he was one of Anderson’s few consistent offensive players during the season. Abeita hit safely in 53 of the 54 games he played in this season and in addition to his three RBI’s, he scored twice on three hits and two walks.

While home runs were the big factor in Friday’s game, both teams squandered key opportunities to gain insurance runs. The Panthers left seven runners on base and the Huskers stranded nine.

Eastern’s starting pitcher Josh Mueller gave up the game’s first home run in the bottom of the first inning to Nebraska’s second basemen Jake Opitz after the lead off batter hit an infield single.

The first Panther home run tied the game in the third inning when third baseman Zach Skidmore hit a two-run shot.

“I felt that everyone needed a turn through the batting order to get the jitters out,” Nommensen said. “After that, I think we showed we could hang in there with the best of our region.”

After shortstop Jordan Kreke hit a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning, Nommensen drove in two more runs with a double to left center field.

A 5-3 lead wasn’t enough as the Huskers scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and assumed a lead they would not relinquish.

Mueller was pulled after two and two-third innings and his replacement, Brian Morrell, allowed six runs during his two innings of work. Morrell took the loss and fell to 5-2 on the season.

He walked the lead off batter in the fourth inning, and then gave up a double down the left field line to Nebraska’s third basemen Jake Mort.

With runners on second and third and no outs in the inning, Morrell induced a ground ball to third base.

The Panthers couldn’t avoid the big inning because Abeita’s hot streak continued in the form of a two run single to right field that blooped just over a leaping Jordan Tokarz at second base.

Morrell struck out the next batter, but the 5-5 tie was broken when Huskers first baseman Tyler Farst hit his first career home run in his home stadium and drove Abeita in to take the 7-5 lead.

Schmitz said Morrell has been dependable throughout the season, but his stuff just wasn’t there and his mistakes were magnified by the strong wind that was blowing out of the stadium.

Dan Jennings, Husker starting pitcher, was also chased from the game early on, but his replacement, Thad Weber, only allowed two runs in three and one-third innings. Jennings left the game after three and two-third innings pitched, and after allowing five runs on six hits.

Weber earned the win and improved to 9-4 during Friday’s relief outing.

Nebraska had six consecutive come from behind wins entering Friday’s game, and came from behind to win ten of its last 12 games.

Eastern came within two runs after Nommensen hit a two run single in the top of the sixth inning, bringing the score to 9-7.

Two home runs and an RBI single later, the Panthers were down 13-7 to start the ninth inning.

“When they got two strikes, they really put the ball in play,” Schmitz said of Nebraska’s offense.

Panther first baseman Alex Gee hit a three run home run with two outs, but it was too little too late. Right fielder Ryan Lindquist tried to keep the game alive with a line drive to deep right field, but Nebraska’s DJ Belfonte lunged far enough to catch it.

Eastern qualified for the regional tournament by winning the Ohio Valley Conference for the second time since joining it in 1997. The Huskers are playing in their ninth NCAA tournament in the past 10 years.

Tokarz, OVC Tournament Most Valuable Player, scored one run on two hits during Friday’s loss to Nebraska.

Rick Kambic can be reached at 581-7942 or at [email protected].

Panthers fall in game one of NCAA tournament

Panthers fall in game one of NCAA tournament

Junior outfielder Ryan Lindquist walks to the dugout after flying out in the top of the ninth inning Friday afternoon. Nebraska defeated Eastern 13-10 in the Lincoln Nebraska Regional of the 2008 NCAA Baseball Tournament. (Robbie Wroblewski

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