HUSKER BASEBALL: Nebraska Falls to Florida in NCAA Regional Opener

STILLWATER, OK–(NU Athletics May 31)–Nebraska dropped its opening game of the NCAA Stillwater Regional against Florida 5-2 on Friday afternoon at O’ Brate Stadium.

Nebraska (39-21) scored two runs on eight hits, while Florida (29-27) tallied five runs on 14 hits.

Gabe Swansen went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI, his fifth multi-hit effort in his last seven starts. Ben Columbus reached in three of his four plate appearances with a single and two walks, while Rhett Stokes added a two-hit game. Case Sanderson, Josh Caron and Dylan Carey each recorded knocks for the Huskers.

Brett Sears was dealt his first loss of the season after lasting five innings and surrendering three earned runs on 10 hits. The right-hander punched out four batters and walked just one, giving him 101 strikeouts on the season, which is the ninth-most in a season in program history.

Drew Christo tossed four innings of relief behind Sears, allowing two earned runs on four hits with a quartet of strikeouts. Across his last five appearances, the junior has posted a 2.50 ERA allowing just five runs across 18 innings.

Florida took an early 1-0 advantage on a leadoff home run to left-center field off the bat of Cade Kurland. The Gators pieced together a pair of singles to put runners on first and second, but Sears coaxed a double play to escape the jam.

Despite an early deficit, the Huskers responded with a run of their own after Sanderson’s one-out single and Columbus’ walk. Swansen continued to swing a hot bat, as he laced an RBI double into the left-center gap to score Sanderson and even the game at one.

Both teams went scoreless in the second inning, as Sears worked around a leadoff double and hit batter with a pair of punchouts to finish the frame unscathed.

Jac Caglianone began the third with a double, but Sears then recorded his 100th strikeout of the season and forced a popup for two quick outs. The Westphalia, Iowa, native became one of nine Huskers in program history to post 100-or-more strikeouts in a single season, and the first since Johnny Dorn (102) in 2008.

However, two straight two-out hits capped off by a two-run double from Ashton Wilson put Florida back in front 3-1 in the third inning.

Nebraska managed walks in the third and fifth frames but were unable to capitalize on either, as the Gators maintained a two-run lead after five complete innings.

Christo entered out of the bullpen in the sixth inning and was greeted by a leadoff double, Florida’s fifth of the afternoon. The junior bounced back with two lineouts and a flyout, sandwiched by a Caglianone intentional walk, to strand a pair of Gators on the basepaths.

Down 3-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, Swansen sent a 105-mph solo home run off the scoreboard in left field to cut the Gator lead to one. It marked the junior’s fourth long ball in his last seven games and his second RBI of the day.

The Elkhorn, Neb., native tossed a scoreless seventh inning, but the Gators tallied an insurance run in the eighth after a leadoff single and groundout moved a runner into scoring position. Kurland cashed in once again with an RBI single to right field to give Florida a 4-2 lead.

After Sanderson’s 10-pitch flyout to begin the bottom half of the eighth, consecutive hits from Caron and Columbus followed by Swansen’s full-pitch walk loaded the bases. However, a 108-mph lineout from Stone and a Carey strikeout neutralized the Huskers threat.

Florida added another run in the ninth frame with a solo home run off Christo to extend its lead to three. Stokes mustered a one-out single, but a double play gave the Gators a 5-2 victory on Friday.

Nebraska will take on the loser of Oklahoma State/Niagara tomorrow at 1 p.m. in an elimination game at O’ Brate Stadium. Saturday’s action can be seen on ESPN+