UNO’s baseball team had an opportunity to all but lock up its spot in the Southland Conference tournament Thursday. Instead, the Privateers have to wait another day.
Nicholls State took advantage of several UNO mistakes and two home runs by Dylan Manichia to steal a 5-4 win in the first game of a Southland Conference series at Maestri Field.
After not making an appearance in a postseason tournament since 2007, UNO could’ve secured its first trip to the SLC tournament with a win Thursday and a loss by Houston Baptist.
Thursday’s loss, coupled with Houston Baptist’s rainout at Sam Houston State, delays the Privateers’ attempt at a postseason berth at least one more day.
UNO (30-22, 14-14) will travel to Nicholls on Friday to play the second game of the series, while Houston Baptist will play a doubleheader against Sam Houston on Saturday.
“We just didn’t have the killer instinct or the killer drive like we did last week against Southeastern,” UNO coach Blake Dean said. “We just thought we could walk out here and get a win, and we ended up getting our lunch handed to us.”
With the teams tied at 2 midway through the game, Kyle Bracey gave the momentum-shifting hit it needed, crushing a fly ball over the left-field wall for his team-leading 10th home run of the season to put the Privateers up 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Nicholls (24-30, 12-16) quickly responded, tying the score with an RBI single from Kyle Knauth and taking the lead one batter later on an RBI single by Gavin Wehby, making the score 4-3 in the seventh.
In the eighth inning, Manichia crushed his second home run of the night deep over the left-field wall to give the Colonels a 5-3 lead. They never looked back.
“I was seeing the ball well, and I hadn’t been seeing it as well the past couple weeks,” Manichia said. “Me and the coaches put in some extra work before the game and it ended up paying off.”
While the Privateers had an epic pitching collapse in its 17-3 blowout loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday, the Privateers’ defense is what fell apart Thursday.
After not registering more than three errors in any game all season, UNO stumbled its way into five errors Thursday, including a baffling error in the sixth inning on an errant attempted throw back to the pitcher that allowed a Nicholls run to score that tied the game at 2.
Dean said the errors were just a microcosm for the team’s lack of energy and effort in Thursday’s loss.
“It shows a lack of mental focus on our part,” he said. “We’ve got to get back in the mindset, and I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I have to get those guys locked back in the way we were.”