The first game against an intrastate rival was welcomed by a chilly night at Haymarket Park with the Omaha Mavericks coming to town for a single game against the hometown Cornhuskers. In a week with iffy weather and changes already made to the weekend schedule, one has to take their hat off to the hardy Nebraska baseball fans who came out to the park.
Nebraska’s Michael Garza (1-1) took the mound, facing off against the Maverick’s Charlie Bell (1-1). The two righties started things off with a good old-fashioned pitchers dual for the first few innings, with Garza notching five strikeouts through three innings, and Bell beating him by one with six. However, Nebraska did put up a couple of runs in the third inning to take a lead.
After Bell surrendered a walk to lead-off batter Griffin Everitt and a single to third baseman Efry Cervantes, and following a Brice Matthews strikeout, current Big 10 Player of the Week Cole Evans drove an RBI single for the first run of the game. That was followed by a Max Anderson single up the middle that scored Cervantes and moved Evans to third. Nebraska was up 2-0 with one out.
With runners on the corners, Anderson took off for second and in a play that works one out of fifty times in Little League, catcher Eduardo Rosario threw the ball short to Devin Hurdle creeping in at shortstop instead of all the way through to second base. Evans was off to home thinking the throw was going through and ended up dead in the water after a short run down. Charlie Fischer then struck out to end the inning and the possibility of scoring more runs.
Ending the third inning in that fashion became a harbinger of bad things to come for the Cornhuskers. Coach Bolt opted to end Garza’s evening and brought on freshman lefty Caleb Clark to start the fourth inning, giving him the opportunity to right the ship after struggling badly in his last couple of outings. Unfortunately, the youngster from Canada ended up living a nightmare.
Facing four batters, Clark gave up singles to the first two batters and walked the next two, giving Omaha their first run of the game. All four of those batters would score in the inning as Mason Ornelas then came in and promptly walked the first two batters he faced before recording a strike out and giving up a single. Once again, Nebraska’s bullpen turned a well-pitched game into a disaster in one inning. When the dust cleared Omaha held a 4-2 lead after four innings.
In the fifth, Ornelas hit the first Maverick batter in the top of the fifth and then committed a throwing error when five-spot hitter Cam Frederick dropped down a bunt. With two on and no one out, the righty from Texas was pulled for Corbin Hawkins. The sidewinder got a couple of strikeouts in the inning, but did give up a single that scored a Maverick, but shut down what could have been another big inning for the boys from Omaha.
The Big Red then caught some fire in the bottom of the fifth inning as for the second time in the game, Everitt led off with a walk and Cervantes followed with a single. And for the second time in the game, both of them would score on RBI singles by Matthews and Charlie Fischer. Max Anderson scored a batter later on an RBI single by Josh Caron and then Gabe Swanson drove in Fischer with a double. Going to the sixth inning, Nebraska had regained the lead 6-5.
Omaha then added two runs in the 6th inning, one in the seventh, and two more in the 8th off an Eduardo Rosario home run. Veteran pitchers Shay Schanaman and Kyle Perry both struggled with their control and consistency. After starting off the seventh striking out both Zach Lechnir and Eduardo Rosario looking, Schanaman found a way to create problems for himself.
After giving up a walk to the number nine hitter Devin Hurdle, who then stole second base, leadoff hitter Haiden Hunt reached first on an error charged to first baseman Will Walsh. Hurdle scored on the play, putting Omaha up 8-6. Schanaman then gave up a single and another walk before enticing Bales to fly out to Cervantes at third base. It is baffling how a pitcher can have such incredible command of his pitches for two batters and then completely lose it. Perry also had two outs in the 8th inning and then gave up the Rosario homer.
On the flip side, Nebraska loaded the bases in the bottom of the 8th inning before Omaha changed pitchers, bringing Grand Island native Rands Sanders in to face Evans, Anderson, and Fischer. He struck them all out.
Trailing 10-6 going to the 9th inning, Drew Christo came in and pitched a good top of the inning before Nebraska had their final chance in the ball game. Josh Caron grounded out sharply to second. Gabe Swanson struck out, and Ben Columbus then drew a walk. With two outs, Griffin Everitt then ended the game flying out to the first baseman in foul territory.
After splitting the series last year, Omaha is a game up over the Cornhuskers this year. The Mavericks produced a lot of offense tonight, though early in the game they did not have to work very hard as Nebraska pitching put a number of runners on base with freebies that were coupled with a total of three errors on the night.
The Omaha bullpen was also solid, particularly Sanders who pitched the final two innings and shut down the Cornhuskers.
Nebraska drops to 9-5-1 on the season and will take on Nicholls Thursday at a neutral site on the Kansas State campus in Manhattan to hopefully avoid some nasty weather predicted for Lincoln.
First pitch is scheduled for 11:00 and will be carried on the Husker Radio Network.
- Josh Caron extended his on-base streak to 17 games with a single in the 5th inning. Brice Matthews extended his on-base streak to 18 games also with a single in the 5th.
- Garrett Anglim is still recovering from a leg injury and did not play.
- Griffin Everitt, hitting in the 8-spot lead off the inning four times in tonight’s game. Three times he walked and each of those time, Efry Cervantes followed with a single.
- Cervantes led the team with three hits in four at-bats.