TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The No. 13 University of Alabama baseball team stranded the tying run at second base in the ninth inning and fell 6-5 to No. 17 Nebraska, as the Huskers took the rubber game of series from the Crimson Tide at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Alabama (13-6) trailed 6-3 heading into the ninth inning and scored two runs on three hits and had the tying run at second base with one out, before Nebraska right fielder Steve Edlefsen struck out Kent Matthes and Matt Bentley to end the game and preserve the series win for the Huskers.
Senior shortstop Greg Paiml led off the ninth with a single up the middle against Nebraska reliever Erik Bird. Senior center fielder Emeel Salem followed with an RBI double into right-center fielder as UA cut the lead to 6-4.
For the second straight day, Edlefsen was brought in from right field to close out the game for Nebraska. Freshman pinch-hitter Del Howell grounded out to short and sophomore designated hitter Alex Avila ripped a double to left-center field to score Salem from third and pull the Tide to within 6-5
Alabama got no closer. With pinch-runner Tyler Odle representing the tying run at second base, Edlefsen struck out Matthes and Bentley to end the game and record his second save of the series. He retired three of the four batters he faced on Sunday and allowed one hit and struck out two batters.
“We battled back for the second day in-a-row,” Alabama head coach Jim Wells. “I like that. We did some things well at the end of the game and to be a successful team you have to win some games like this one.”
Nebraska (8-5) cruised through the first six innings behind an opportunistic offense and the right arm of junior pitcher Johnny Dorn.
The Huskers built a 5-0 lead with single runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings.
For the second straight day, Nebraska took a 1-0 lead on Andrew Brown’s solo home run in the second inning. It was Brown’s third home run of the season and second in as many ga
Nebraska added two more runs in the fourth inning to take a 3-0 lead. Jake Opitz laced a one-out double to left and Brown walked on four pitches. Both runners advance on Andy Gerch’s slow roller back to the mound for the second out. Craig Corriston then reached on an infield single to short and both Opitz and Brown scored on the play when Paiml’s throw was late to first base and Bentley’s throw home was late in an attempt to get Brown.
“The main thing right now is that we are making two to three errors per game that are directly or indirectly leading to two or three runs,” Wells added. “We have to cut down on those mistakes. That is what sticks out right now.”
A pair of doubles by Jeff Lanning and Tezak plated a run for Nebraska in the fifth inning as the Huskers extended the lead to 4-0.
The Huskers added a run on Corriston’s one-out squeeze bunt to extend the lead to 5-0 in the sixth inning. Opitz reached on leadoff single and took second on Paiml’s SEC-leading 12th error of the season. After a walk to Brown, Gerch moved both runners into scoring position before junior right hander Josh Copeland replaced senior right hander Bernard Robert on the mound.
Corriston then greeted Copeland with the perfect squeeze bunt to score Opitz from third base. It was Corriston’s third RBI of the game. Copeland got Lanning to pop out to May at second base to avoid further damage.
Robert (2-2), who lost both starts this week to Southern Miss and Nebraska, gave up five runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Alabama struggling offense put two runs on the board in the sixth inning to chase Dorn.
Smith was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Avila followed with a double down to the right field line - Alabama’s first extra base hit of the game - to put runners at second and third with no outs. Matthes’ sacrifice fly to center scored Smith with the first run of the game and Bentley followed with a single to right.
Dorn (2-2) left after the base hit to Bentley. He was charged with two runs and five hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Rhoden then reached on a fielder’s choice against reliever Thad Weber to chase Avila home from third base to cut the deficit to 5-2.
Nebraska added another run in the seventh when Edlefsen was hit by an 0-2 pitch to lead off the inning and later scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-2.
Matt Bentley’s solo home run in the eighth inning cut the Nebraska lead to 6-3, before the Crimson Tide made a last-inning run in the ninth inning.
*Nebraska won the series two games to one. Alabama claimed the opener 8-0 on Friday before Nebraska bounced back to win the next two games, including a 4-3 victory on Saturday and a 6-2 win on Sunday.
*Alabama senior center fielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) stole two bases on Sunday to tie David Fowke (1980-81) for the all-time stolen base record with 68 career stolen bases. The stolen base record was the oldest existing offensive record in the UA record book.
*Nebraska had four sacrifice bunts in the game on Sunday, including one each from Steve Edlefsen, Andy Gerch, Craig Corriston and DJ Belfonte.
*Freshman Jake Smith (Hueytown) battled flu-like symptoms and was hit in the face with a pitch on Sunday. The combination of those two injuries forced him to leave the game in the top of the seventh inning. He should be O.K. for Wednesday’s game at Samford.