LINCOLN — Jake Hohensee sat next to a dugout heater between innings wearing batting gloves. It was enough to keep his hands warm for the best start of his collegiate career.
But with temperatures in the 20s on a frigid Friday afternoon, the Nebraska pitcher’s outing ended with a cold result. Two errors led to a three-run third inning for Western Carolina as it opened the three-game series with a 5-2 victory at Haymarket Park.
The junior right-hander out of Lincoln East went six strong innings — easily besting his previous career long of 41⁄3 set last month — while striking out four. He walked four and allowed three hits in his third start of the season after missing all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Yet a win eluded him against the Catamounts, who eliminated Nebraska in an NCAA regional a season ago. The leadoff man in the third inning reached on an errant relay from Ben Miller to Hohensee on a grounder to first. After a walk, a roller scooted under the glove of second baseman Angelo Altavilla to put two in scoring position.
Both later came home on a Caleb Robinson RBI single and Luke Robinson sacrifice fly.
“We didn’t take care of the baseball. We didn’t communicate on defense,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “In these type of conditions, that’s going to be the difference. We’ve really beat ourselves a lot this year. We’ve got to get that fixed; I gotta get that fixed.”
Hohensee drops to 0-2 on the season. His bad luck continued: Eight of the 12 runs he’s allowed this spring have been unearned.
But he said he won’t be giving any grief to his teammates. After all, his own control was far from perfect during his 112-pitch afternoon.
“We’re one giant family; we’re all going to make errors,” Hohensee said. “We just don’t have time to point fingers. We’re all in this together, so we just have to have each other’s back.”
Nebraska (5-7) took a brief lead in the bottom of the second on a wild pitch that plated Scott Schreiber, who had doubled off the wall in left-center.
But Western Carolina lefty Bryan Sammons escaped further damage in a two-on, one-out spot with consecutive strikeouts. The senior punched out eight Huskers in all and gave up seven hits across seven innings and 118 pitches. He allowed a run in the sixth when Schreiber fanned but reached on a passed ball and later came in on an Altavilla sac fly. That rally ended abruptly as Jake Meyers was caught off second base trying to tag up.
“In these conditions, you’re not going to have a chance to hit a three-run homer,” Erstad said. “You’re going to have to really take care of the little things. (Western Carolina) won that part of the game against us pretty obviously.”
Nebraska — which outhit its opponent 9-7 — also left two on base in the third and seventh. Meyers posted a 3-for-4 effort to lead the hosts offensively.
Western Carolina (6-7) added a run back in the seventh off reliever Robbie Palkert — who loaded the bases with a walk, single and walk — on a Matt Smith groundout. The Catamounts tacked on more insurance in the ninth on a Smith RBI single after Bryson Bowman singled and went to third on a pair of wild pitches.
Erstad said one positive trait of these Huskers is their ability to move on quickly. The teams are set to return to action Saturday at 2:05 p.m., though forecast cold and snow could force schedule shuffling, including a possible Sunday doubleheader.
“I honestly don’t even know if these guys — they’re in the locker room now — if they remember what happened in this game,” Erstad said. “I think they’re more worried about getting pictures on Instagram with their girlfriends and families than they are about what happened a year ago (in the NCAA loss). These guys have short-term memories. That’s just fine.”
W. Carolina (6-7) ……… 003 000 101—5 7 0
Nebraska (5-7) …………. 010 001 000—2 9 2
W: Bryan Sammons (3-0). L: Hohensee (0-2). S: B.J. Nobles (1).
Western Carolina at Nebraska
When: 2:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: Haymarket Park
Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM