While grumpy, hard-to-please people who claim to be Nebraska fans believe that this years edition of Nebraska Baseball does not deserve to play in the Big Ten Tournament, it is fortunate that those people sit at home in their miserable existence rather than head out to the ballpark to cheer on the boys in red in must-win game against the Green Team from Michigan.
A good-sized crowd showed up to cheer on the Big Red. They got to drive home listening to Greg and Ben on the radio excitedly recap the game as the hometown boys live to play another day after beating Sparty 6-3 in an exciting win at Haymarket.
Emmett Olson took the mound tonight in a must win game for the Nebraska Cornhusker baseball team against the Michigan State Spartans, 4-1 winners from last night. For the second game in a row, Coach Bolt has went with a left-hander to counter Michigan State’s dangerous lefty hitters. Olson took a 3-3 record into the contest as arguably Nebraska’s best starter at this point of the season.
Michigan State, also playing for their post-season life, countered with their own left-hander, Harrison Cook (1-4), looking to send Nebraska fans home very sad that their boys will not be playing in the Big Ten tournament next week in Omaha.
Olson came out dealing, setting Michigan State batters down in order in the top of the first inning. After a Cam Chick walk, the Cornhuskers were retired in order as well.
In the second inning, the two teams traded solo home runs. In the top half, Jack Frank homered to centerfield off Olson to put Sparty up 1-0. However, on Cook’s first pitch of the second inning, Colby Gomes answered with a blast to right-center to tie things up.
After Olson retired the Spartans in order in the top of the third, thanks to an outstanding throw by Griffin Everitt to nab Mitch Jebb trying to swipe second after reaching on a single. With Cam Chick leading off the Cornhusker third with a double and Garrett Anglim getting a base after being plunked by Cook, Max Anderson hit an old-school Astro-turf chopper over the head of the third basemen and shortstop to score both of them, giving Nebraska their first lead of the series at 3-1.
Second baseman Trent Farquhar started the fourth inning by nailing Olson’s first pitch, driving it out of the park in centerfield for Sparty’s second run of the game. Up to this point, Olson has pitched well except for two pitches that he served up on a silver platter to Spartan hitters. Olson got his mojo back and had hitters swinging helplessly at his breaking pitches in the dirt, striking out two to end the inning.
In the fourth inning, Bolt Ball returned to Haymarket Park. Brice Matthews slapped a single to left, bringing up designated hitter Luke Jessen. On a 1-1 count, Matthews took off for second and with the infield moving to cover the steal, Jessen executed a perfect hit and run, lacing a single where the second basemen wasn’t. A beautiful sight to behold for baseball traditionalists! After watching Michigan State turn double-play after double-play last night, Coach Harvell has the boys running tonight.
Michigan State pulled Cook and brought in Andrew Carson to pitch. Efry Cervantes struck out. Jessen stole second before Cam Chick struck out swinging for the second out of the inning. With a runner in scoring position, Anglim grounded out weakly to the first baseman. After four innings, Nebraska was up 3-2.
Clutch hitting is for the most part still elusive.
Neither team could do much in the fifth inning. With Olson taking the mound in the top of the sixth, he had struck out five and not given up a walk on 60 pitches. Facing the lineup for the third time, It was important that he make adjustments to keep them off balance. However, nine-hole hitter Peter Ahn led off with a single, bringing up Michigan State’s best hitter and toughest guy to strike out in the Big Ten, Mitch Jebb. Jebb scorched a ground ball to Anderson at second. Looking at a double play, Anderson bobbled the ball and could only get the runner at first for one out.
Olson struck out Farquahr, making him look foolish with his sweeping breaking ball. Casey Mayes, whacked a league leading triple to the wall in left-center, tying the game 3-3. Olson then struck out Bryan Broecker for his seventh K of the game.
Spartan pitcher Andrew Carson took his warmup pitches between innings. He injured his oblique muscle during one of his pitches, resulting in MSU Head Coach Jake Boss, Jr. having to rush in right-hander Wyatt Rush. Since he was coming in because of an injury, Rush got whatever number of pitches he needed to be ready. It must have been enough, as after walking lead-off man Leighton Banjoff, he got the next three Cornhusker batters to fly out.
With Koty Frank warming up in the bullpen, Emmett Olson came out for the seventh inning and set the Spartans down in order. It is unfortunate that he made three bad pitches — two homers and the triple — because he had otherwise dominated Michigan State’s batters.
Unfortunately, lady luck was not on the side of Nebraska in the bottom half of the inning as Chick started off flying out before Garrett Anglim stroked a single to center. On the next pitch, trying to get something happening with a hit and run, Griffin Everitt popped up to the first baseman, whose throw then beat Anglim back to the bag, doubling him up.
Up to this point, the little things are costing Nebraska. Between leaving runners on base, bobbling ground balls, and pressing at the plate, Nebraska is their own worst enemy once again.
Koty Frank took the mound in the 8th inning. One could see how important this game is as the tension in the stadium was thick. With the crowd’s emotions ebbing and flowing with each pitch, Frank did not make it easy as he struggled through the inning, eventually seeing two runners get to base before striking out Mayes looking to end the Spartan threat.
Max Anderson led the inning off, grounding out to short. Colby Gomes bounced one over the fence down the right field line for a ground-rule double. Recognizing the significance of the moment, Coach Bolt sent Luke Sartori in to pinch run for the first baseman. With Rush relying heavily on slow curve balls, Leighton Banjoff earned a walk. That led to Michigan State bringing in the Big Ten leader in saves, Kyle Bischoff. After throwing 40 pitches last night, he was brought in to save Michigan State’s season. Sparty was now all-in.
Brice Matthews was the first to face the fastball-slider ace. After getting ahead 1-2 in the count, Bischoff threw one all the way to the backstop, allowing Sartori and Banjoff to advance 90 feet. On the very next pitch, Matthews blasted it into the evergreens on the hill beyond the centerfield wall, the biggest hit of the season for the Cornhuskers.
Going to the ninth, Nebraska is 4-4 when tied after 8 innings this season, and 17-2 when ahead after eight. Koty Frank took the mound with a three-run lead and momentum on his side.
After the Sparty lead-off man lined out sharply to man-of-the-hour Brice Matthews at short, Jack Frank reached first on a Max Anderson error. Koty Frank then bulled his neck and struck out Dillon Kark with a nasty slider for the second out of the inning. Not messing around, Frank went right after Brock Vradenburg, getting ahead in the count with two quick strikes. After a high heater missed, Frank got his second strikeout in the inning with a beautiful change up for the third out.
Winner winner! Nebraska beats Michigan State 6-3 and is still alive!
After Maryland put a whoopin’ on Purdue for the second game in a row, they have clinched the conference regular season title. That puts Purdue in a must win against the Terrapins tomorrow in order to make the tournament.
If tomorrow’s game in West Lafayette gets rained out, Purdue will be the 8th seed in the tournament regardless of how the game goes in Lincoln because of percentage points.
The question of the night is: With rain in the forecast, will Purdue tarp their field tonight and who will make the final decision tomorrow if it will be wet in Indiana?
If Nebraska wins and Purdue loses, Nebraska is the 8th seed and will play next week in Omaha. If one of those things does not happen, or if the Boilermakers are rained out, Nebraska stays home and players will scatter for their summer teams.
First pitch is at 12:05!