The Nebraska baseball team has entered the “every game is important” part of the season. Coming into the first game of the series on the road at Minnesota, they are tied with Michigan State for 9th in the conference.
With the Gophers at the bottom of the league, a series win is a must. A sweep would be much better.
Shay Schanaman (2-7) took the mound for the Big Red, looking to get a good start for the weekend. Schanaman has pitched very well as of late, particularly in the one-run loss a week ago to the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately, tonight he did not click on all cylinders, as he really struggled with control. In the 4.2 innings he pitched, he kept battling, picking himself up when things did not go well.
Things actually got off to a bad start for Nebraska before the game started. Starting shortstop Brice Matthews caught a spike in the sports turf, injuring his knee. Thus, Coach Will Bolt had to change his lineup shortly before the start of the game. At this point, there is no word on Matthews’ status for the remainder of the weekend. Core Jackson filled his spot at shortstop, and Cam Chick was brought in from the outfield to play second.
Once the game started, Nebraska jumped on starter Sam Ireland right away in the first inning. After Cam Chick struck out, one of the hottest hitters in the conference, Garrett Anglim laced a single for the Cornhuskers first baserunner, and was followed up by a single up the middle by catcher Griffin Everitt. Max Anderson struck out before Nebraska got their third single of the game from Leighton Banjoff, scoring Anglim. Core Jackson worked a walk and then Ireland hit Colby Gomes, forcing Everitt home for the second run of the game.
Schanaman got off to a good start, setting the Gophers down in order. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out for Shay in the second inning. Chase Stanke and Riley Swensen started things off with singles. Schanaman walked Brady Counsell and hit Ronald Sweeny. After Stanke crossed the plate for the Gopher’s first run, the next two batters hit sacrifice flies. When the dust cleared, Minnesota was ahead 3-2 going to the third inning.
In the third inning, Minnesota scored another run to go up 4-2. That lead did not hold up as the Cornhusker bats came alive once again in the top of the fourth. Luke Sartori led it off with a flare over the head of the Gopher shortstop, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Efry Cervantes. Two batters later, Anglim got his third single of the game, driving in Sartori. Griffin Everitt then earned a walk. That brought Max Anderson to the plate. He jumped on a Sam Ireland fastball and drove the ball out of the park for a three-run homer. Nebraska went up 6-4 and never looked back.
Schanaman went 4.2 innings and gave up another run before giving way to Koty Frank. In the reliever role most expected for Frank at the start of the season, he was magnificent tonight. He faced 15 batters and only gave up two hits. Gopher hitters struggled with his slider-change and really did not threaten at any point over the final 4.1 innings.
Nebraska scored two more runs in the fifth and manufactured another in the sixth, before capitalizing on struggles by Minnesota’s third pitcher for three more in the ninth. When the numbers were all tallied, the Cornhuskers walked off the field with a convincing 12-5 win on Siebert Field.
Shoutouts tonight go to Garrett Anglim for his 4-for-5 night, continuing his white-hot streak at the plate, as well as to Max Anderson for his seventh home run on the season. Also, Nebraska finally has a regular player hitting over .300 as Anglim bumped his average up to .307. Colby Gomes made a return to the lineup tonight after being dinged up with an injury for the past couple of weeks.
Cam Chick once again was hit by a pitch for the 15th time this season. This time though, he was drilled in the lower back. That one had to hurt!
The same two teams are back at it again tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Emmett Olson will take the mound for Nebraska.
Purdue lost to Iowa tonight, so Nebraska will move ahead of them in the rankings. Penn State and Michigan State were postponed. Things will change each day in the standings this weekend.