Nebraska and Nicholls faced off on a brisk but sunny Sunday afternoon for Game 3 in what was one of the more unique series in recent Big Red baseball history. With weather always a challenge in the early season, what was originally supposed to be a four-game series on Friday through Sunday in Lincoln became a three game series scheduled on a neutral field in Manhattan on Thursday and Friday.
Cold and rain forced cancellation of the Thursday game, leaving two to be played the next day. The teams got those two in, and then after they were finished, it was announced that since Nicholls was not flying out of Kansas City until Monday, they would skip a forecasted rainy Saturday and schedule a 2:00 game today.
Since it has been a crazy way to get in a series, it would figure that the final game would be crazy as well.
Michael Garza, who started the midweek game on Tuesday against Omaha, was given the ball to start for the Cornhuskers. Garza sported a 1-1 record coming into the game.
The extra day allowed the Colonels to put their hottest pitched on the mound, Jacob Mayers, a flame-throwing freshman with five starts and a 3-1 record.
Nicholls came out aggressive with something to prove in the top of the first inning. It was obvious that they wanted to put the embarrassing meltdown in Game 2 on Friday behind them. Before you could blink, the first four batters in the lineup all had hits. Parker Coddou led off with a hit to right-center and hustled around first base thinking double the whole time. This was followed by a long single down the right field line by Xane Washington, scoring Coddou. A couple of pitches later, Edgar Alvarez hit another.
With runners on first and third, designated hitter Gerardo Villarreal slapped the Colonels fourth hit in a row, driving in Washington. With Garrett Felix at the plate, Garza threw wild to score Alvarez. Felix did ground out to Carey at third. However, Garza worked himself into further trouble hitting Austin Cain with his first pitch. Fortunately, he got the next batter, MaCrae Kendrick to strike out and then Kaden Amundson flew out to center. Before they even had an at-bat, the Cornhuskers were down 3-0.
The young fireballer from Nicholls struggled a bit to find the plate and walked lead-off hitter Brice Matthews, who stole a base and advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on a sacrifice ground ball by Max Anderson. Mayers was then able to work himself out of the rest of the inning unscathed with the Colonels leading 3-1.
Nicholls added a run in the second when lead-off hitter Coddou tripled and scored two hitters later when Alvarez drove him in with a single. That marked an end to Garza’s day as Will Bolt brought on veteran lefty Kyle Perry. Garza had a rough day, facing twelve batters and giving up four runs on six hits. The Colonels came swinging the bats, and Garza helped them out with a walk, a hit batter, and two wild pitches.
Perry was able to right the ship a bit, though it was shaky at times. In the 3rd inning he was ahead in the count 0-2 against the first two hitters before surrendering a single and hitting a guy. However, the boys from Louisiana were held at bay until the old bugaboo two outs and nobody on popped up in the fourth inning for Perry and he served up a home run ball to Villarreal for the Colonels fifth run of the game.
In the meantime, Mayers was raring back and firing fastballs right down the middle of the plate past Nebraska batters. All gas with a “here it is, see if you can hit it!” mentality. A lot of swings and misses by Big Red batters, and no off-speed pitches. However, Nebraska caught a break in the 3rd inning with Brice Matthews on first after his second straight walk.
With two outs, Max Anderson skied a pop up in the infield on the first base side. With only the shortstop spotting it and the wind pushing it away from him, the ball dropped for a double and Matthews scored from first. It’s not often that you see that happen. Crazy day! After three innings, Nicholls is up 4-2.
The Cornhuskers didn’t do anything in the bottom of the fourth and Coach Bolt brought in the Lincoln East freshman Jalen Worthley to try and slow down Nicholls hitters to start the 5th. He has done a good job thus far this season in his relief appearances and got off to a good start enticing Kendrick to pop one up for the first out of the inning.
Worthley then gave up a hit followed by a hit a batter. At this point, Nebraska put three pitchers on the mound and each one of them had hit a batter. Worthley’s was the 32nd of the year for the pitching staff, a high number of hit batters for a season and we’re not even to the half way point.
Who could guess that after that, things would only get nuttier in the inning with two runners on and one out. Coddou hit a soft grounder to the right side and ended up a single as there was confusion as to who should cover first.
Fortunately, Worthley was able to glove the throw, but missed the bag with his foot, loading the bases. That brought Washington up who had one of those frustrating swinging bunts to Carey at third. He beat it out, scoring Amundson from 3rd base.
With one already across the plate and bases still loaded, it looked like this might turn into another big inning for the Colonels. Fortunately, it was extinguished when Alvarez hit a little floater that Brice Matthews was able to run down to catch, and an aggressive Wes Toups tagged and tried to score from third. Matthews threw a strike and Columbus slapped a tag on Toups to complete the double play and put other the fire. You don’t see that very often either. Crazy!
Jacob Mayers had electric stuff and took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth, having thrown around 80 pitches. Nebraska had been out hit 9-1, but were still in the game to an extent. They had some momentum thanks to the defense in the top of the inning. In his second time seeing Mayers, centerfielder Casey Burnham slapped a single and then trying to get things going for the Big Red, swiped second. Brice Matthew then drove a home run to put the score at 6-4. After Mayers struck out Evans for the third time in the game, the Cornhuskers scrapped to get something going again.
Anderson singled, but then Mayers got his second strikeout sitting down Charlie Fischer swinging. Up came Ben Columbus who got his first hit of the game and Mayers walked Dylan Carey for the second time. Coach Mike Silva then figured he had probably pushed the freshman too far and brought in Chase Gearing to try and prevent the Cornhuskers from blowing it open. Gearing, throwing all curveballs to off-set the heavy dose of fastballs Nebraska batters had seen from Mayers, struck out Gabe Swansen to end the threat.
Neither team scored in the sixth though Nebraska again loaded the bases only to see lefty Josh Mancuso come on to strike out Fischer to once again end a potentially big inning for the Big Red.
Coach Bolt went to Shay Schanaman to start the seventh. He promptly gave up a double to start the inning to Kendrick. The Super Senior then got Kaden Amundson looking and Wes Toups swinging. That strike out of Toups, though, added to the crazy on the day. Toups did swing at the pitch, but it also hit him.
According to the announcers he was writhing in pain on home plate and could be heard throughout the ball park. After a few minutes, the trainer was able to get him up and he walked off the field in noticeable pain. Later in the broadcast, it was shared that he was taken to a local hospital and that the pitch had hit him in the groin area.
After a relatively long break, Schanaman served up a home run pitch to shortstop Parker Coddou. That made him 4 for 5 on the day, and he had hit for the cycle. Again, something you don’t see every day! The two runs that scored put Nicholls up 8-4.
Nebraska did not roll over. Why would they on a day that was already chaos! Ben Columbus drew a walk and Dylan Carey doubled. Gabe Swansen then walked as well. For the third inning in a row, Cornhuskers filled the bases, this time with no outs. Interestingly, Coach Silva went to reliever Nico Saltafromaggio, who the boys from Lincoln had roughed up on Friday.
The junior right hander was up to the task today as he struck out both Efry Cervantes and Casey Burnham. However, things turned really fast when the hot hitting Brice Matthews tied into one, tripling and driving in three runs. The Cornhuskers were back in the game, down just one run with two innings to go.
Well, when one didn’t think it possible to see more crazy things happen, it did in fact get crazier in the top of the 8th inning when Edgar Alvarez led off by smoking a liner down the right field line right at the umpire. Ducking out of the way for self-preservation, the ump threw up his arms signaling a foul ball.
However, it was clearly fair to everyone in the ball park and when the umpires gathered, the call was overturned though it was not made official until the head umpire had a long conversation with Will Bolt. The fundamental question was how can that call be changed without knowing where the runner would have ended up? But that’s what happened and they put Alvarez on second base. He scored two batters later on a Felix single, and then Felix scored the final run of the game on a triple by Cain.
Nebraska put two runners on in the bottom of the eighth, and another on in the ninth, but did not add any runs to their total.
Final score: 10-7 Nicholls.
It will be a tough ride home for the Cornhuskers because of so many missed opportunities. It would have been the same on their flight home for the Colonels had Nebraska found a way to win. After a very fast, seven inning 2-1 game on Friday, followed by an absolute blowout win by Nebraska in the second, this one was a game of too many what ifs to count.
Nebraska wins the series, which is ultimately what you want. Fortunately, they get a chance on Tuesday to bleach this one away from their memory when they travel to Creighton for a 6:00 p.m. start.
- Josh Caron and Sam Novotny did not make the trip back to Manhattan for today’s game as both of them were under the weather.
- According to Greg Sharpe, Voice of the Cornhuskers, Garrett Anglim is taking batting practice and hopefully will be ready to play soon.
- Brice Matthews continues to do damage at the top of the lineup. He reached base six times today with a home run, a triple, a double, two walks, and being hit by a pitch.
- Matthews’ double in the 9th was also a high fly that the second baseman did not track and fell to the ground for a hit, just like the one hit earlier in the game by Max Anderson.
- Dylan Carey seems to have his swing back and is showing more patience at the plate. Two doubles and two walks with a run scored today.
- Cornhusker batters struck out 14 times today, 13 of them swinging.
- Hot hitting Cole Evans has cooled down this week finishing 0-6 today.
- In what was one of the craziest games with things you do not often see, neither team committed an error.
- With Parker Coddou hitting for the cycle today, the last player to do so against Nebraska did it on the same field. Ross Kivett of Kansas State did the same against Nebraska in 2014.