Nebraska jumped out in front early and never looked back, defeating Minnesota 8-2 to open the 2019 Big Ten Tournament. Matt Waldron was solid on the mound for the Huskers, while Angelo Altavilla and Spencer Schwellenbach each knocked in three runs.
Mojo Hagge led off the game for the visiting Huskers by working a nine pitch at bat that ended in a walk. After reaching second on a wild pitch, the Huskers would get runners on the corners after a pop-up off the bat of Aaron Palensky went off the glove of center fielder Drew Hmielewski. Altavilla would clear the bases with a triple, before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Joe Acker.
Waldron struck out the side in the first to pass Joba Chamberlain for fifth place on the all time strikeout list for Nebraska.
Minnesota scored their only run of the night in the second. After a video review, Eli Wilson was hit by a pitch to start the second. He scored on a Jordan Kozicky single with two outs. Waldron prevented any more damaged with a strikeout of Riley Smith to end the frame.
The Huskers gave the home town crowd lots to cheer about in the third. Cam Chick was hit by a pitch, stole second, and scored on Altavilla’s second hit of the night. After Acker walked, Gunner Hellstrom followed with a bloop single to stretch the lead to 5-1. After another Alex Henwood was hit by a pitch, Schwellenbach smashed a bases clearing double in the right center gap.
The Huskers and Gophers proceeded to trade zeros after Nebraska had burst the game open. The Huskers could not add to their lead working against relievers J.P.Massey, Jake Stevenson, and Bubba Horton.
Meanwhile, Waldron continued on cruise control. He worked around lead-off singles in the third, sixth, and seventh innings. He only allowed one runner to reach second base after Wilson did so in the second.
In the seventh, the Gophers got a base hit from Cole McDevitt to start the inning. Waldron was able to start a 1-6-3 double play off the bat of Jack Wassel.
Waldron would come back out for the eighth inning. Smith led off with a single before Hmielewski struck out for Waldron’s ninth of the night. A Ben Mezzenga single would end Waldron’s night at 121 pitches.
Replacing, Waldron would be his brother Mike Waldron. Mike would allow a hit to Zack Raabe to cut the lead to 8-2. Mike hit pinch hitter Andrew Wilhite to load the bases. Nebraska went back to the bullpen to grab Robbie Palkert to protect the lead. Palkert got Wilson to hit a liner to Henwood at second before getting McDevitt to strikeout to end the threat.
Palkert stayed in for the ninth inning. He got Wassel to chase a pitch for strike three before Kozicky grounded out. Smith grounded out with Colby Gomes tossing to Palkert to send the Huskers to the winner’s bracket.
The Huskers now move on in the winners bracket. Nebraska will now meet Iowa at 9:03 p.m. Thursday night. Neither team has announced a starter for the contest that will be shown on Big Ten Network. A win tomorrow would guarantee an off day for the Huskers to rest their pitching staff on Friday.