Saturday started with the potential to be a huge day for the Nebraska baseball team. Fresh off a Friday night win over now 4th place Indiana, and with 2nd place Michigan falling as well, the conference leading Huskers had an opportunity to really put some space between them and the rest of the field.
Game 1 :
The first game was a wild one! It featured a matchup with Ohio State and their soon to be top draft pick, LHP Seth Lonsway. Ohio State jumped out to a 2-0 lead when 1st baseman Connor Pohl launched a no-doubter over the fence for his 12th home run of the year. Nebraska earned a run back on an early defensive error by the Buckeyes, which would later become a trend.
It was in the 5th inning that the fireworks started with Jaxon Hallmark hitting his 6th home run of the year, to tie it. That tie lasted about 10 minutes. The Buckeyes finally broke through Nebraska starter Shay Schanaman, and the Husker defense as well. Over the next 2 innings, Nebraska would give up 7 runs, 4 earned, to bring the score to 9-2 Ohio State.
Bolt gathered his team in the dugout before the 7th inning and told them to stop worrying about how lopsided the score was and for each guy to just go out and have a good at bat. Thats exactly what they did. Ohio State would remove Lonsway after 6 innings and 106 pitches and go to the bullpen. Nebraska wasted little time attacking Lonsway’s replacements, scoring 5 runs in the inning to bring the score to 9-7 OSU, with the final RBI being the only one to come off of a base hit. The other runs were due to 2 wild pitches, a HBP and a groundout.
Then we move to the 9th. Cam Chick reached base on a leadoff walk, and was promptly followed by Griffin Everett smashing a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall to bring the Huskers all the way back to tie the game. But the boys didn’t stop there. A Joe Acker single, Jaxon Hallmark triple, and Spencer Schwellenbach single made the score 11-9. And the Husker bullpen continued its dominant day, with Schwellenbach earning the save.
In front of a national audience, Nebraska took the field again Saturday evening, this time to close out the season series with Indiana. If I had to summarize the game in two words, they would be “Chance Hroch”. The graduate transfer had not only his best game as a Husker, but as a collegian.
Hroch was aided by Husker offense getting things started early. A welcome sight after playing the entire first game from behind. Jaxon Hallmark and Spencer Schwellenbach stayed hot after game one, with Hallmark singling up the middle and Schwellenbach driving him home with a drive that found the right center gap to give the Huskers a 1-0 lead. Bryce Matthews continued his hot streak in the pod and added a run of his own with a solo shot over the left field wall to make it 2-0 in the 2nd inning.
That was all Hroch and the Husker defense would need. After a few starts where it would take him an inning or two to get the movement and location down of his sinker, he had his number one pitch working from the start. It took until the 7th batter he faced for a Hoosier to even hit a ball in play into the air. Only one batter even made it to 2nd base before the 9th inning, when Hroch gave up his only run allowed on a home run with 2 outs in the 9th on pitch number 120 of the game.
Hroch would set a season high with 122 pitches on the day, on his way to throwing his first complete game. He would also set a season high and tie a career high in strikeouts with 10, while only giving up 3 hits, 1 walk, and the 1 earned run, which he could be seen laughing in disbelief that the potential final batter broke up his bid for his first career shutout.
Look for Hroch (and the aforementioned Mathews, should he contribute tomorrow) to be in the running for Big Ten honors this week.
You can catch Nebraska on TV again Sunday on BTN, as they face Ohio State for the final time this season at noon. The Huskers will be looking to extend their current winning streak to 8 games, win their season series with OSU, sweep the pod, and place even more space between themselves and the rest of the league going into the final weekend.