Nebraska fans were forced to the Fox app to see the Husker baseball team as Maryland tightened their sphincter in the bottom of the ninth against Michigan. The Terps started the ninth with a five-run lead over the Wolverines and ended up 8-8 when the ninth inning carnage was over. After blowing what had been an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, and surviving a ridiculous baserunning blunder in the 10th inning, Maryland got their mojo back scoring three in the top of the 11th to deal a series opening loss to Michigan.
The biggest baseball weekend of the season in the Big Ten was off to a wild start.
As the Cornhuskers took the field against the other top team in the conference, there were hardly any fans in the stands. Either they have not lifted Covid restrictions in Bloomington or Hoosiers do not appreciate their baseball team. Two left-handers faced off tonight with the hope of working a lot of innings to save their team pitching over this incredibly important four-game weekend. Cade Povich was on the bump for the Cornhuskers with a 5-1 record. He faced off against 5-3 Tommy Sommers. With Michigan taking a loss, the winner of this game would stretch their lead at the top of the conference.
The story of the night was Nebraska’s two super freshmen, Brice Matthews and Max Anderson. Both of them had two hits, including a homerun by Anderson and a bases clearing double by Matthews. Those two accounted for five of the team’s runs batted in, and the bases loaded double that scored three was the third time Matthews had done that this season.
After a scoreless first inning, the second inning saw crooked numbers put up by both teams. Nebraska scored four in the top of the inning and the Hoosiers answered with three of their own in the bottom. Neither pitcher was particularly sharp as both struggled to find the strike zone. By the end of the inning, Povich had thrown an unusually high 53 pitches in just two innings.
Nebraska struck again in the third. Sommers was noticeably bothered by an injury to his pitching hand, but came out to the mound to start the inning. He paid for it as Max Anderson led off the inning with his sixth homer of the season. Anderson looks like that big 12-year old that every team in Williamsport has at the Little League World Series with those sports glasses, big toothy smile, and dimples. The Hoosiers finally pulled the struggling Sommers, opening the bullpen much sooner than they wanted to in the series.
Cade Povich did not have his best stuff tonight, having trouble locating his fastball and having to rely a lot more on his breaking pitches than he would have liked. He did pitch four complete innings before giving way to Koty Frank. Frank took the mound with a 7-4 lead and made a few Hoosiers look foolish with a nasty curve ball. Indiana matched Frank in the 5th by putting in senior Grant Macciocchi who looked really sharp, shutting down the Cornhuskers for four innings, only giving up two hits and keeping them scoreless.
Indiana added a run in the 7th inning after Jake Bunz walked Cole Barr with two outs and gave up a triple to Grant Richardson. Those two at-bats were the only blemishes on Bunz’s stat line as he otherwise pitched two very good innings, including striking out the side in the 8th.
Captain Spencer Schwellenbach topped off the night, hitting a home run in the top of the ninth inning and then shutting down the Hoosiers from the mound, three up and three down to end the game. It was a huge benefit that Bunz was able to pitch two innings so that Schwellenbach was only needed to close things out in the ninth for the save. With so much on the line this weekend, there is no question that he will be needed again before the last pitch on Sunday.
The Cornhusker defense once again played an error free game, with both Luke Roskum and Leighton Banjoff making highlight plays to take away Indiana hits. For the first time in a number of games, Cam Chick was not in the starting lineup, though the left-hander did make an appearance late in the game as a pinch hitter.
Tomorrow, Nebraska will take on Ohio State at noon and Indiana at 5:30.
Coach Will Bolt has not named his starting pitchers at this point. The win tonight provides him with a little flexibility in how he uses his staff. Ohio State has announced they are starting 3-5 Seth Lonsway.
A win in their opener tomorrow would position the Cornhuskers well in this incredibly tight finish to the season.