Last Saturday, in the 7th inning vs Minnesota, Nebraska scored 3 runs to take an 8-5 lead in what they hoped would be the next step in sweeping Minnesota and keep themselves in the hunt to secure a postseason birth in the Big Ten Tournament. Since that inning, Nebraska finished the series with 1 run in the last 14 inning and 2 loses. The offensive woes didn’t stay in Minneapolis though. The Husker hitters ended up extending that stat to 2 runs over 22 innings, before scoring 2 runs in garbage time in the 9th inning.
Illinois came into the series with flashy stats on offense and on defense, where they hold the 2nd best fielding percentage in the conference, .001% behind Rutgers. It was their pitching, particularly starting pitcher Cole Kirschsieper who stole the show to open the series. Nebraska got to him early, with Josh Caron driving in Leighton Banjoff to give the Huskers a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning.
The lead didn’t last long, as the Nebraska defense faltered in the 2nd, where Illinois offense took advantage of an error on SS Core Jackson, still in for the injured Brice Matthews, to tie the game at 1-1. To this point, Husker starter Shea Schanaman had his slider working, as he was inducing numerous ground balls and striking out the occasional Illini batter.
Schanaman never seemed to recover from that, as in the 3rd inning, the Illinois offense finally awoke. They started with 3 straight singles to take a 2-1 lead before CF Taylor Jackson ripped a 3-run home run over the wall in left-center to open the game up at 5-1.
That drive seemed to completely take the wind out of the Huskers’ sails, as the offense began a 15 batter streak without anyone reaching base. All while the Illini offense kept picking up steam, adding multiple extra base hits to finally knock Schanaman out of the game after 3.1 innings.
Mason Ornelas was able to stabilize the game again, giving up only 1 run over 4.1 innings of relief, but the offense just couldnt hold up its end of the bargain, waiting until the 9th inning to add 2 runs on a 2 RBI single from Core Jackson to bring it to the final score of 8-3.
The two teams take the field again on Saturday at 3pm, as Nebraska sends out Emmett Olson to attempt to keep their slim postseason hopes alive.