With the first pitch moved up three-and-a-half hours due to predictions of threatening weather, hopes that some new found offense would continue for the Cornhuskers was the prevalent emotion among Nebraska fans as the big, bad Iowa Hawkeyes showed up today at Haymarket Park.
Rick Heller’s black and gold fellas are the hottest team in the Big Ten Conference, having just taken two of three games against league leading Rutgers on their home field in New Jersey. The Hawkeyes are sitting third in the league standings behind Rutgers and Maryland, and are fifth in the conference in hitting and second in pitching, with a team ERA of nearly 1.5 better than the Nebraska staff sitting in fourth.
The Hawkeyes seem to have recovered from a humiliating early season non-conference loss to Division III Loras College.
The boys from Iowa looked imposing, with most of their starters batting over .300, including their top four at .301, .379, .351, and .340. Nebraska does not have a batter in the starting lineup hitting .300.
Iowa’s starting pitcher, Adam Mazur (4-2) has a sparkling 2.44 ERA and a 4-2 record. This all indicated that Nebraska starter, Shay Schanaman (2-6) faced a tall task.
The game quickly turned into a battle between Mazur and Schanaman, with the tall, skinny righty from Iowa more efficient with his pitches and a little more lucky. With a strong wind blowing in from left-center, the game came down to three hit balls, two by Nebraska and one by Iowa’s Izzy Fullard.
Two Nebraska hitters — Brice Matthews and Max Anderson — drove Mazur pitches to the outfield wall that just could not get out of the park due to the wind. Fullard hit his the opposite way in the 4th inning and saw it land in the Iowa bullpen for the only run of the game. That was the difference. Iowa 1 — Nebraska 0.
The explosion of Nebraska hitting from the last three games was neutralized by Mazur as they could only must two hits in the game, the first a line drive laser over the second baseman’s head by Core Jackson and the others a ground ball smoked through the left side by Brice Matthews. However, throughout the game Big Red hitters had a solid approach at the plate and made solid contact only to see balls knocked down by the wind or directly at Hawkeye defenders.
Iowa also hit the ball hard throughout the game, putting seven hits in the scorebook, the biggest being Fullard’s homer in the fourth. Brilliant defense plays by Jackson and Matthews prevented a couple more.
Nebraska did must one scoring threat in the third inning, Mazur’s only hiccup in an otherwise brilliantly pitched game. Jackson led off the inning with a six pitch walk. After DH Gabe Swanson popped up in the infield, Efry Cervantes was tossed out at first as he moved Jackson to second with a bunt. Cam Chick then walked and Garrett Anglim was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two out. Mazur then got his control and h is slider back and struck out Griffin Everitt on three pitches.
Shay Schanaman and Tyler Martin pitched well enough to win this game. Schanaman went seven innings, throwing 111 pitches and record eight strikeouts and two bases on balls. He gave up six hits, the most damaging the one fastball that got a little too much of the plate against Fullard. Martin finished up with a very efficient two innings, throwing only 18 pitches and giving up one hit.
Mazur was very tough and put in perhaps the best pitching performance against the Cornhuskers this season. He went a full nine innings, throwing 102 pitches and striking out six Cornhusker batters. He walked two and hit one. The two things he did better than Schanaman throughout the game was he consistently got ahead in the count and kept the ball down in the strike zone. That was the difference in the game.
Emmett Olson will be on the hill for Nebraska in Game 2 Saturday against Iowa’s Connor Schultz, the most recent Big Ten Pitcher of the Week. First pitch is at 2:02 at Haymarket Park.