Nebraska baseball went 3-1 over the weekend, playing four games against Northwestern State and UT Arlington in Arlington, Texas.
- Koty Frank had a career-high 10 strikeouts and tossed 6.2 shutout innings in the 2-0 win in game one.
- Nebraska’s only loss of the weekend came when UTA scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning.
- Shay Schanaman pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout in game 3, a 6-0 win.
- Game 4 saw Nebraska’s offense finally look like an offense in a 8-2 win where Nebraska scored four runs in the ninth inning to make sure what happened in game two didn’t happen again.
- Nebraska moved to 4-7 on the season so far.
- Next up is Kansas State at Manhattan, KS on Tuesday, then the home opener next weekend in a series against the Long Beach State Dirtbags.
Game 1 - Nebraska 2, Northwestern State 0
A new weekend. A new opponent. A new starting Cornhusker pitcher. And a new look Nebraska lineup. All of that combined for a 2-0 victory on the diamond against the Demons of Northwestern State from Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Head coach Will Bolt stated earlier in the week that the starting pitching rotation was going to change, and true to his word, Koty Frank took the mound for the 1-6 Cornhuskers. Frank had pitched well in two lengthy relief appearances thus far in the season, and was tabbed for the first start of this four game series in Arlington, Texas at the home of the University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks.
Using his unique slider-change, the right-hander dominated the Demons for six and two-thirds innings, striking out ten and giving up five hits. Three of those five hits were in the first two innings, and otherwise, Frank shut the Demons down. Emmett Olson continued his hot start as well, finishing off the last 2.1 innings with three strike outs and allowing no Demons to reach base.
Some pundits wondered whether Olson may get a shot at starting one of the games this weekend, but though he will not, with this efficient performance, it is likely he will be used again at some point. A statistic that cannot be ignored is that for the game, the two Nebraska pitchers only surrendered two free passes, cutting back significantly on the number of walks given up.
With a B+/A- grade given to the pitching performance, the Cornhusker offense continues its slow start. While there was some improvement in terms of a more aggressive approach at the plate, the team is still looking to find its groove. For the first time this season someone other than Leighton Banjoff filled the top spot on the lineup card. Brice Matthews, returning to his home state for the third consecutive weekend, started things off in this game, with Griffin Everitt filling the two hole.
Everitt turned out to be the offensive hero of the day, swatting a two run homer in the top of the sixth. Those two runs were the only exception to the lines of zeroes on the scoreline. Moving Banjoff down in the order did bring about a change in the dynamic of the offense.
In the top spot, Banjoff had quickly become none as Mr. Full Count, working pitchers to see as many pitches as possible. Now down in the order, Banjoff has been freed and jumped on pitches much earlier in the count.
Matthews also performed in his new spot, getting a couple of hits and scoring on the Everitt home run. The team collected a total of eight hits, including one by Efry Cervantes, who made his second straight start. In fact, the slick gloveman barreled up more than once and showed more offensive proficiency than what he did a year ago.
It was not a pretty or spectacular win; it was very workmanlike. However, it is a win and this team is not going to give it back. Starting pitching seems to be coming around and that trademark defense has shown up as well. Hopefully the offense gets caught up soon.
Game 2 - UT Arlington 4, Nebraska 3
Kyle Perry, for the second straight start, was in command of his pitches and thus in command of the second game of the day. The lefty from Millard took the mound vs. host University of Texas at Arlington, and was masterful through five complete innings of shut out baseball. In fact, the Cornhuskers were in control of the game until the last half inning, when the bottom dropped out.
This was a game that Perry deserved to win. His command of the strike zone was outstanding, notching five strike outs with his 83 pitches, and not surrendering a single walk. The five hits given up to the Mavericks did little harm as he prevented them from stringing them together.
Perry gave way to Mason Orneles for two innings and Ethan Bradford in the eighth. Between the two of them, they gave up one hit, had one strike out, gave up a walk and hit one batter. Most important, they kept the scoreboard spotless.
On the offensive side, Coach Bolt stuck with a similar lineup from the first game, but did not see much happen until the fifth inning. Griffin Everitt drove Josh Caron home on a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and then Efry Cervantes, making his second straight start, had one of the most unusual sacrifice flies that you are going to ever see.
With bases loaded, Cervantes hit a deep fly ball that was caught. Luke Jessen and Josh Caron both tagged at third and second respectively, and took off as soon as the ball was caught. When right fielder Wilson Galvan fell down after making the catch, third base coach Lance Harvell waived Caron home. In a bang-bang play at the plate, Caron got under the tag applied by catcher Sam Crowell.
The Cornhuskers took a 3-0 lead to the ninth inning when Coach Bolt made his final call to the bullpen, bringing Colby Gomes in to close out the game in a save opportunity. Gomes had made only one appearance thus far in the early season, throwing a total of six pitches. As it would work out, Gomes threw over six times as many before it was all over.
When the dust cleared, Gomes gave up five hits, a walk, hit a batter, and saw four Mavericks cross the plate. Of the five hits, three were bloopers off the fist that hit the ground and the Cornhuskers could not make a play on.
It was a total meltdown, capped off by a walk-off bases loaded walk given up by the noticeably frustrated Nebraska pitcher.
Final score: UT-Arlington 4, Nebraska 3. A devastating loss in a game where Nebraska was in control for 8.5 innings.
At the end of the day, Nebraska had a split, moving their record to 2-7.
Game 3 - Nebraska 6, Northwestern State 0
The basic question today was “How will Nebraska recover from the gut punch delivered in the 9th inning yesterday?” The answer is: “Dang good!”
Clay Gould Stadium is a nice little ballpark, with a beautiful natural playing surface, and on a nice March day, it was great to see a large number of red-clad Nebraska fans in shots and wearing sunglasses watching a ball game. The story leading into the game from Nebraska perspective who was going to get the starting nod on the mound. Coach Bolt went back to Shay Schanaman to give the senior from Grand Island another chance to get himself right.
Shay Schanaman from the 2021 season made his return on the diamond in Arlington today. In fact, this version of Shay Schanaman was perhaps the best one yet. After a disastrous appearance last week when he did not make it through the second inning, the ace from G.I. pitched a complete game shutout on three hits , eight strikeouts and only one walk. What a difference a week makes!
Not only did the old Shay Schanaman return today, timely hitting showed up for the first time this season. In multiple innings, lead off hitters were able to get on base and those coming up behind him were successful in moving them and driving them in to score runs.
Leighton Banjoff seems comfortable hitting down in the lineup as he was two for three with two RBI. Efry Cervantes also continued to put the bat on the ball and drove in a run as well. When Nebraska gets runners on base, Coach Harvell is a kid in a sandbox, putting on the hit and run, and giving those with speed a chance to steal a base.
The other old friend from 2021 that has made an appearance in the last few games is the sparkling defense that these Will Bolt coached teams are known for. Cervantes making his third consecutive start, this time at third base, and made an incredible play laying out for a hard hit ball, spinning in a pirouette and firing it across the diamond to get the runner. Later in the game freshman Core Jackson showed what he is capable of doing with a similar play on a hard hit smash at him at second base.
The Cornhuskers ended up with a 6-0 victory and showed some signs of putting it all together. Schanaman threw the first complete game for Nebraska in a number of years, showing the mental fortitude to bounce back with a gem.
Coach Bolt continued to tinker with the lineup to try and figure out the best combinations, and some of the young guns like Luke Jessen and Garrett Anglim are showing that they deserve some playing time.
Game 4 - Nebraska 8, UT Arlington 2
With the sun out the entire game, there was no better place to be this afternoon than the ballpark on the campus of the University of Texas-Arlington. For the first time this season, Griffin Everett with given a game off behind the plate, replaced by freshman Josh Caron. Everitt was, however, in the lineup as the DH.
Nebraska’s most consistent starting pitcher this season, Dawson McCarville, was on the mound. He ended up going 5.2 innings, doing a real good job the first five, before laboring a bit in the sixth. By that time Nebraska had a 4-0 lead, but after McCarville put a couple of Mavericks on base, Tyler Martin was brought in from the bullpen. By the time he finished the inning with a strike out, two runs had been scored, making it 4-2 at that point. With memories from the ninth inning yesterday still fresh in their minds, the anxiety level among the Nebraska fan base started to rise.
To understand the rest of this ball game, one needs to just look at what took place in the Cornhusker half of the 9th inning:
- Josh Caron singled up the middle.
- Efry Cervantes sacrificed Caron to second base. One out. Tyler Palmer in to pinch run for Caron.
- Brice Matthews was hit by a pitch. Runners on first and second, one out.
- Coach Harvell calls for a double steal. Catchers sails the ball over the third baseman’s head. Caron scores.
- Luke Sartori lays down a suicide squeeze bunt. Matthews scores. Sartori hustles down to first and is safe when the field can’t find the base with his foot.
- Max Anderson comes to the plate with three hits already in the game, and rips a single, scoring Sartori.
- Two batters later, Jack Steil hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Anderson
Bolt Ball has returned!
Cornhusker hitters made contact. Runners got on base. Pressure was put on the defense. Runs were scored.
To say that there was a lot of energy in the Nebraska dugout at this point is an understatement. Braxton Bragg finished off the Mavericks, pitching 2.1 innings, giving up one hit and striking out three.
Nebraska not only avenged the disappointing loss from the day before, they found their mojo. The ten-hour plus bus ride home will seem a lot shorter after going 3-1 for the weekend, and persevering through such a rough start.
They will make a much shorter ride to Manhattan on Tuesday to take on the Kansas State Wildcats, full of confidence and the knowledge that they are a dangerous team when they are firing on all cylinders.