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Nebraska baseball loses early lead as Huskers fall to Illinois

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An early Nebraska lead was no match for one of the best-hitting teams in the Big Ten as Illinois rolled past the Huskers 8-3 at Illinois Field on Friday night.

NU’s odds of qualifying for the Big Ten tournament grew longer following another rough start from Shay Schanaman and a toothless performance from the offense. Meanwhile, the Illini banged out 14 hits and retired 15 straight Nebraska batters into the ninth inning to remain two games out of first place.

Nebraska (19-28, 7-12 B1G) went ahead 1-0 in the second inning when a Leighton Banjoff walk and consecutive two-out hits from Core Jackson and Josh Caron produced a run. But the lineup was largely quiet otherwise — double plays in the first and third wiped out potential rallies. Left-handed starter Cole Kirschsieper and two relievers combined to shut down the visitors from there until NU tacked on a pair in the ninth with a two-run Jackson single.

“He smelled blood in the water,” NU coach Will Bolt said of Kirschsieper during his postgame radio interview. “That’s what great pitchers do and that’s what teams near the top of the standings do. When somebody gives you a little bit of a crease you just barrel through it and that’s what he did.”

Schanaman allowed seven runs (six earned) in 3 1/3 innings as Illinois (27-19, 13-6) squared him up for a flurry of hard knocks. A Taylor Jackson three-run homer in the third broke open a 5-1 lead before three more hits in the fourth extended the advantage to 7-1. Leadoff hitter Danny Doligale finished 4 for 4 to pace the hosts.

Mason Ornelas saved the Husker bullpen with 4 1/3 frames of one-run ball but it was far too late against Kirschsieper, who struck out nine and allowed four hits and one walk in seven innings.

Said Bolt: “If we want to get to the postseason we gotta make sure we’re starting to get on the right side of these competitive situations here immediately.”​

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