Let’s Play Two!
Expected weather on Sunday caused both remaining games of the series to be played in a back-to-back double-header on Saturday. A split with the Wolverines between the two ensured and now it is onto the regional tournament!
Covid 19 has apparently disappeared as a huge crowd came out on a sunny, but cool day to pay homage to nine seniors and back their Cornhuskers as they faced off against Michigan for two. It was announced early this morning that Sunday’s game would be cancelled due to impending weather, and today the Big Ten rivals would play doubleheader. After a 1-0 game yesterday, the pitching match-up in game one today would indicate more of the same. Reigning B1G Pitcher of the Week Chance Hroch versus the pitcher with the lowest ERA in the conference, Cameron Weston, would make one believe hits will be hard to come by.
As the teams took the field, it was a wonderful site to see thousands of red-clad Nebraska fans filled up Haymarket Park. The rumor in the press box in the third inning was that traffic was still backed up with people coming out for the games. When you cannot see any green grass on the berms, you know there are a lot of people in the ballpark!
Chance Hroch made his first appearance on the mound since his incredible complete game win last weekend against Indiana. After a lead-off fly out to center, Tito Flores stroked a double in the left-center gap. However, he was stranded there after Benjamin Sems flew out to center and a web gem at the hot corner by Max Anderson robbing Ted Burton of an extra base hit down the line to get the third out.
Joe Acker started off the bottom of the first hitting a hot smash right back at pitcher Cameron Weston, who was fortunate to get his glove up and save getting hit right in the face. Jaxon Hallmark followed suit with a bouncer back to Weston, who knocked it down to throw him out. That brought up Spencer Schwellenbach who stroked the third ball right up the middle where shortstop Benjamin Sems made an acrobatic play to field the ball and throw him out at first for the third out of the inning. Two incredible defensive plays in the first inning!
Three ground ball outs to the left side of the infield for Michigan in this inning. Chance Hroch did a good job of mixing up his pitches and keeping the low in the strike zone. Luke Roskum led off by legging out a hit off an infield dribbler to short. Max Anderson flew out to left before Brice Matthews had Nebraska’s second hit of the inning, moving Roskum to second. Cam Chick, making the start today as the DH then hit a screaming liner right to the shortstop, who doubled off a diving Luke Roskum trying to get back to second for the third out.
A second straight three up, three down inning for Chance Hroch in the top of the third. After Joey Velazquez ground out to Jake Steil at first, Hroch got his first K of the game striking out Jake Marti. Lead-off hitter Clark Elliott then popped up to Luke Roskum, who caught it near the screen. The Huskers went harmlessly as well with Mojo Hagge, trying to beat out a bunt, was thrown out at first. Jack Steil, playing first base today, flew out to rightfield for the second out. The inning came to an end as Joe Acker ground out to short.
Two-hole hitter Tito Flores opened the inning with a walk. That brought lefthander Sems, who also worked Hroch for a walk, bringing out pitching coach Jeff Christy for a conversation on the mound. Hroch bulled his neck though, striking out one of the top hitters in the conference, Ted Burton. That brought catcher Griffin Mazur, who worked some little mind games, taking his time, stepping in and out of the batter’s box. He then laced a ground ball to Schwellenbach, who turned quickly and fired the ball to Anderson at third, who ran down Sems to tag him out. However, Flores did score from third for the first run of the game. Christian Molfetta then hit an infield single. A frustrated Chance Hroch hit Jimmy Obertop on the leg to load the bases. Jaxson Hallmark then made the third incredible defensive play of the game with a sliding grab of a Joey Velazquez sinking liner to center to retire the side.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Cornhuskers were not able to answer. Both Hallmark and Schwellenbach hit dribblers to third and were thrown out at first. That brought up Luke Roskum, who flew out to centerfield. After four innings this has turned into a pitcher’s duel with Michigan leading 1-0.
After Marti struck out looking, lead-off hitter Clark Elliott stroked a single to right and advanced to second on ball in the dirt that Roskum did not glove. Tito Flores then got his second hit of the day, lacing a line drive to left, scoring Elliott. Hroch got Sems to fly out to Hagge. Three pitches later, Mojo came up firing as Flores tried to reach third on a hard hit by Burton to throw the greedy Wolverine out. You never want to make the third out at third base. However, damage was done as Michigan took a 2-0 lead, putting the Cornhuskers nine game winning streak in jeopardy. For the third inning in a row, Nebraska went down in order.
Good defense continued to be theme for Nebraska in the 6th inning as Schwellenbach made a nifty play charging and throwing on the run to throw out Mazur for the first out. Christian Molfetta then flew out to Hagge in left. Hroch looked to be laboring a bit as he walked Obertop. Mojo Hagge then brought the crowd to their feet and ignited them, covering a lot of distance and sliding into the wall in foul territory, gabbing a fly ball. As he flipped the ball to a young fan in the stands, Nebraska fans were pumped.
Hagge then got another round of applause as he stepped in the box to lead off the Husker sixth. He did not disappoint as he stroked a soft liner over the shortstop’s head for a single. Freshman Jack Steil slapped a promising looking ball in the gap between center and right that just hung up too long and was caught for the first out. Acker was thrown out third to first, moving Hagge to second. Jaxon Hallmark came up with two out and things apparently got a bit chippy. The home plate umpire Mark Wagers first warned pitcher Cameron Weston for complaining about a call, then the Michigan bench. One pitch later, he warned the Nebraska bench. Hallmark fouled off a couple of pitches, but struck out looking for the third out.
Hard-throwing Cam Wynne came out for the Cornhuskers in the seventh inning. Chance Hroch pitched six complete innings, striking out three and giving up five hits. He threw 86 pitches. Jake Marti was the first to face Wynne and struck out swinging on a nasty slider from the Aggie transfer. Elliott flew out the center and then Wynne made Tito Flores look foolish chasing that slider in the dirt.
After a slow start, the Huskers showed some life in the seventh with the Michigan starter going over 100 pitches. Weston struck out both Schwellenbach and Roskum before Max Anderson shot a double down the first base line. Brice Matthews then had a long at bat, fouling off a number of pitches before eventually getting a walk. That brought out the Michigan pitching coach and questions of whether he would leave his starter in against the left-hand hitting Cam Chick. Weston stayed on the mound and incredibly Chick swung at the first pitch, flying out to left.
Left-hander Tyler Martin took the mound for Nebraska in the eighth inning. Facing the numbers three and four hitters, he got both of them to fly out. Coach Bolt then brought in Koty Frank to face Griffin Mazur. On the second pitch he grounded out to shortstop for the third out. Michigan brought in Willie Weiss in relief of Weston and the Huskers ended up going down in order. Hagge grounded out to short, Everitt popped up to third, and Joe Acker struck out.
In the Michigan ninth, Molfetta grounded out to Anderson at third. Koty Frank then stuck out Obertop. Joey Velazquez then grounded out the Schwellenbach. Jaxson Hallmark led off the final inning, swinging at a high pitch for strike three. Schwellenbach then hit a grounder that he beat out to extend his hitting streak to ten games. The Chaska Grizzly, Luke Roskem then put a charge in a ball to deep center bringing the partisan crowd to their feet that unfortunately stayed in the park for the second out. The crowd got its hopes up to no avail. Max Anderson then grounded out to end the game.
For the second game in a row, pitching and defense were the name of the game. Over 7000 Nebraska fans showed up and tried to get to get the team started throughout the game, but the hitters just could not get the barrel of the bat on the balls thrown by Cameron Weston. As they say, good pitching hits good hitting. This Michigan win tied the series at one with the rubber game to follow.
Final | Michigan 2, Nebraska 0— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) May 29, 2021
First pitch for Game 2 in approx. 45 minutes.
In a bit of a surprise, lefty Kyle Perry was the Cornhusker starter in game 2. Still working his way back from off-season surgery, he got off to a good start striking out lead-off man Clark Elliott. Tito Flores worked a walk and Benjamin Sems grounded out to Brice Matthews, moving Flores to second base. Then déjà vu struck as Max Anderson laid out toward the line to snag a hard-hit ball by Ted Burton, scrambled to his feet, and fired it across the diamond for the third out.
In the Nebraska half of the inning, they face off against Ben Dragani, making just his third start of the season and sitting at 3 wins against two losses. Joe Acker grounded out to third, and then as he typically does, Jaxon Hallmark made Dragani throw a lot of pitches and then getting a walk. Schwellenbach hit a nubber off the end of his bat to the first baseman, whose only play was at first, moving Hallmark to second. Luke Roskum hit a weak grounder to Burton at second who tossed him out to end the inning.
Perry got two outs on two pitches with Griffin Mazur and Christian Molfetta both flying out to centerfield. He then struck out Jimmy Obertop on five more pitches. A nice, quick inning for Kyle Perry. Max Anderson was determined to Fly Like and Eagle, leading off the bottom of the inning, but instead popped up to second. Brice Matthews then registered the first Nebraska strikeout of the game. Griffin Everitt got the Huskers second hit of the game with a solid line drive. However, he was left stranded at first when Logan Foster grounded out to Molfetta at third.
Being very efficient with his pitches, Kyle Perry came out for the third with relievers ready in the bullpen as one must assume he is on a strict pitch count. He got his third K of the game against Danny Zimmerman, and made it two in a row against Marti. Next up was the top of the order and Clark Elliott, who promptly grounded out to Roskum at first. With a left-hander on the mound, Leighton Banjoff is playing in leftfield this game and led off the Husker third striking out swinging on a full count breaking pitch. Back to the top of the order, Joe Acker popped out to right. That brought Axtion Jaxon Hallmark to the plate who was down 0-2, fouled off what seemed to be at least six pitches, and then Chelsea Dagegered his way around the base paths with a homer to leftfield. Spencer Schwellenbach then added a little excitement as he slid under a tag at first and popped up swinging his arms as if he were safe. However, the umpire ruled he was tagged on the head. Nebraska up 1-0.
Apparently, Perry reached his pitch threshold as usual game three starter Shay Schanamann replaced him to start the 4th inning. Shay got off to a quick start with a strikeout of Tito Flores. Sems grounded weakly to Anderson at third for the second out. Schanamann then blew strike three past Ted Burton to end the top of the inning. The Huskers Blitzkrieg Bopped into their fourth with Luke Roskum leading off. Dragani walked him on five pitches, bringing up Max Anderson. A wild pitch moved Roskum to second before Max ripped a single just over the head of Molfetta at third.
Pitching Coach Steve Merriman took a walk out to the mound to tell Dragani to stop throwing pitches that get hit really hard. So, Dragani threw three straight balls to Brice Matthews before he walked him on a full-count pitch. With runners at first and second, Head Coach Erik Bakich took his walk to the mound, told Dragani that he did not want him throwing any more balls, and brought in Will Proctor to see if he could pitch any better. First up to face Proctor was Griffin Everitt, who executed a perfect bunt as the Wolverines shifted in anticipation. He guided it between the pitcher and charging third baseman, ending up on first with a single and loading the bases with no outs. Logan Foster hit a flare to center, scoring Anderson and moving all the rest of the baserunners up 90 feet. On the next pitch, Banjoff hit a deep fly to right, scoring Matthews on the sacrifice.
With Joe Acker up, and runners at the corners, crazy broke out for an instance. A pitch in the dirt bounced off the catcher and rolled toward the first base dugout. Everitt hesitated just an instance and then took off for home. It became a race to the plate between the Husker catcher and his Griffin counterpart from Michigan. In a very close play, Michigan Griffin tagged out Nebraska Griffin, resulting in Will Bolt running from the dugout to argue that his Griffin had gotten there first. It definitely appeared Everitt’s foot was easily on the plate when the tag was made. Acker then ended the inning grounding out to short.
Schanamann had an equally impressive fifth inning, getting catcher Griffin Mazur to ground out to Roskum before Molfetta flew out weakly to Banjoff in left. Shay then blew one by Obertop to strike him out and end the Wolverine chances. Hallmark tried to catch the boys from Michigan sleeping with a bunt to start the Husker fifth, but was called out for interference as he came into contact with the bunted ball out of the batter’s box. Proctor then walked Schwellenbach. Coach Bakich had seen enough and brought in lefthander Logan Wood to face Roskum. Luke walked on five pitches. Max Anderson then shot the first pitch to the second baseman who stated a 4-6-3 double play. At the end of five innings, Cornhuskers are up 4-0.
Danny Zimmerman led off the 6th flying out to centerfield. That brought Velazquez up to face the hard-throwing Shay Schanamann. He struck out swinging. Back to the top of the order, Clark Elliott lined the first pitch he saw over the outstretched glove of Schwellenbach for the Wolverines first hit of the game. Matthews started the Husker half getting his second walk of the game. Coach Bakich must have wanted to get all of his pitchers in the game and brought in Isaiah Page to pitch to Everitt. Griffin bunted for the second time, this time beautifully to the first base side, sacrificing Matthews to second base. Texas A&M transfer Logan Foster came to bat next and struck out swinging, as did Leighton Banjoff.
As we go to the seventh inning, there’s about half as many people in the stadium as there were for the first game. Mojo Hagge is a defensive replacement and saw action right away with Benjamin Sems flying out to him in left. Next up is Michigan’s leading hitter, Ted Burton, who has basically been stymied today. Schanamann came in high and tight against him and as he checked his swing, got hit on the hand. The umpire awarded him first base as the boo-birds let him have it. Mazur flew out to center and Molfetta got the Wolverines second hit of the game, shooting one between third and short. With two runners on and two outs, Jimmy Obertop hit one into the hole at short. Schwellenbach did a good job knocking it down to keep Burton from scoring. Shay then faced Zimmerman and struck him out to end the threat. Good to see Schanamann keep his head as he often gets rattled when things do not go his way.
In the continued effort to get pitchers into the game, Michigan brought out Joe Pace for the bottom of the seventh. Joe Acker continued to struggle at the plate, striking out against the righthander. Jaxon Hallmark walked again, but ended up being stranded on first as Schwellenbach struck out on a controversial appeal and Roskum grounded out to second.
The big lefty from Illinois, Emmett Olson took the mound for the 8th inning for the Cornhuskers. Pinch hitter Christian Bullock grounded out to Roskum at first. After that, Elliott hit a slow grounder to second and was tossed out by Matthews. That brought up Tito Flores and Olson fanned him with a high heater to end the eighth for the boys from Michigan. Max Anderson came up first for Nebraska and had his chance trot around the bases to Chelsea Dagger after driving a Pace fastball way over the left field fence. Pace then regrouped and struck out Matthews, Everitt, and Foster. After eight innings, Nebraska leads 5-0.
Big Emmett got to show what he can do again, coming out for the ninth against hitters three, four, and five. He struck out Sems, who looked at a beautiful curve ball over the outside edge. Then, the Wolverines leading hitter, Ted Burton, ended his day hitless, grounding out short to first. His batting average dropped over 20 points today. Griffin Mazur got his team’s fourth hit of the game, slapping one through the left side. After Mazur took second base uncontested, Emmett gave up another hit to Christian Molfetta. That scored Mazur, giving the Wolverines their first run of the game. Four pitches later, Michigan got its third straight hit as Jimmy Obertop hit a rocket homerun to left. That made the score Nebraska 5, Michigan 3. Coach Bolt did not hesitate, putting Spencer Schwellenbach in to pitch to Zimmerman. The Husker from Michigan struck him out to end the game.
Max just sent a ball home.— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) May 29, 2021
Like, his Omaha, home. pic.twitter.com/UpUFAPxDuH
Until the ninth inning, actually until there were two outs in the ninth inning, one could say that Nebraska’s pitching was dynamite. Kyle Perry and Shay Schanamann were both outstanding, looking sharp with their full arsenal of pitches and keeping the Wolverine bats quiet. Considering that the Michiganders did not get their first hit until the sixth inning, their performance was outstanding. Then Emmett Olson looked really good, until he could not get the final out of the game. Nerves most likely got to him, or he was pressing too hard to make the right pitch. None the less, Nebraska won the series against the defending College World Series runners-up and positioning themselves well for the upcoming regionals. We will know where they are going to play on Monday. What a season it has been – so far! – for Coach Bolt and the gritty Nebraska baseball team!