It took awhile, but the Nebraska offense broke through in the eighth inning for a crucial 8-2 series opening win against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Jaxon Hallmark led the offense going 2-3, while also drawing two walks for the Huskers.
Nebraska and Penn State traded scoreless first innings. The Huskers had a base runner thrown out at third in the first inning, while starting pitcher Cade Povich worked around a one out double to keep the Lions scoreless.
The Huskers got on the board in the second inning. Nebraska got a one out single from Luke Roskam to start a rally. Leighton Banjoff executed a hit and run on a 3-2 pitch to put runners on the corners with just one out. Banjoff got picked off first base, but Bryce Matthews delivered a two out single to put the Huskers up 1-0. A strikeout ended the chance for any more Husker runs in the frame.
Penn State looked to come right back in the bottom of the second as they got their second double of the game to start the inning. Povich recorded a strikeout, flyball, and groundout to end the inning with the Huskers still on top.
Nebraska would threaten in the next several innings, but were unable to cash in several good opportunies. Hallmark had a leadoff triple in the third, but no one was able to bring him in. Roskam and Spencer Schwellenbach were also stranded in scoring position in both the fouth and fifth innings as well.
Povich kept the Lions off the board until the sixth inning. He had worked given up a leadoff single, but that was erased on a caught stealing. He then recorded his sixth strikeout of the game for the second out. Penn State would then string together two singles, two wild pitches and a double to take a 2-1 lead.
Povich was done for the day and Cam Wynne came in to stop the bleeding. Wynne came in and got the first batter he saw to strike out and bring the Huskers back up in the seventh.
As the Nebraska offense has done all year, it responded. Penn State started the inning by going to the bullpen and bringing in Jared Freilich. Matthews and Griffin Everitt started the inning by both drawing walks. Joe Acker then laid down a poor bunt but the catcher threw to third where the charging third baseman was ten feet off the bag. The bases were loaded for Hallmark who battled in an eight pitch at bat for a bases loaded walk.
Freilich would be replaced by Mason Mellott with the bases loaded and no one out. Mellott proceeded to strike out Schwellenbach on three pitches for the first out. Cam Chick struck out swinging and Max Anderson starred at strike three right down the middle to strand the bases loaded and keep it a 2-2 ballgame.
Jake Bunz came into the tie game in the seventh. With Penn State having all the momentum the Huskers needed a clean inning. Bunz gave up a one out single but he got the next batter to fly out for the second out. Bunz would then get hit by a comebacker for an infield hit. He then struck out Tayven Kelly on a 3-2 high fastball to bring the Huskers back up to bat.
Still working against Mellott, Banjoff hit a one out single to start a rally. Mojo Hagge came into the game as a pinch runner and stole second base. Matthews had his second hit of the day with runners in scoring position to put runners on the corners and just one out. Everitt then hit a high chopper into no mans land on the right side of the infield for a infield base hit to score Hagge and put the Huskers up 3-2.
After an error loaded the bases, the Nittany Lions went back to the bullpen and got Steven Miller. Miller walked Hallmark on four pitches to extend the Husker lead. Schwellenbach flew out to shallow right but Chick picked him up with a single into right field to score two more for the Huskers.
Miller was replaced by Braden Halladay. Halladay could not find the strikezone and walked Anderson and Roskam to force in the fifth run of the inning. Hagge who came into the game as a pinch runner flew out to left to end the inning.
Bunz got a shutdown inning with the help of a double play ball to end the home eighth.
Acker created a run on his own in the ninth inning for more insurance. Everitt reached on a one out single before he was replaced on first via a fielder’s choice by Acker. Acker advanced to third on an errant pickoff and scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-2 Huskers.
Braxton Bragg replaced Bunz for the ninth inning. Bragg got a strikeout and two flyballs to secure the Huskers 16th win of the season.
Nebraska and Penn State continue their series tomorrow with first pitch scheduled for 1:00.