What a start to the weekend at the Cambria Classic in Minneapolis by the Nebraska Cornhusker baseball team!
Coach Will Bolt and his troops have now completely washed away that bad taste in the mouth of the fan base from the disappointing start of the season in San Diego. Sweeping South Alabama a week ago got rid of most of it, but after coming out on top of perennial College World Series team Vanderbilt Commodores has gotten rid of it for good. The 5-3 win moves Nebraska to an overall record of 4-3-1 and drops Vandy to 6-4.
Sporting a 1-1 record, Emmett Olson started his third consecutive Friday on the mound in the first ever meeting between the two schools. Taking the field as the home team on the turf where the NFL Vikings play, Nebraska was facing a team coming off wins against Texas, #9 Oklahoma State, and two out of three last weekend from nationally ranked UCLA. What appeared to be a tall task for the junior lefty ended up being a prove it game for him as
Olson completed his best start of the season, going six innings and only giving up four hits. He also had five strikeouts on 88 pitches. However, remember that this SEC juggernaut has been to 15-straight regionals and the CWS five times since 2011, winning it in 2014 and 2019, and playing in the finals in 2021. Of those four hits given up by Olson, three were solo home runs!
Nebraska got on the board first in the second inning on a Griffin Everitt double down the left field line that scored Will Walsh. The senior captain has been in and out of the lineup in this early season looking for some consistency at the plate and came through with a couple of hits today. The one run lead lasted until the top of the fourth inning when Olson served up home run pitches to right fielder R.J. Schreck and first baseman Parker Noland. Shreck went yard again in the sixth inning off Everitt for his second solo homer of the game to put the Commodores up 3-1.
Up to that point, the Cornhuskers were their typical selves in a frustrating way, getting hits and leaving runners on base. In the bottom of the second they stranded three. They left two more in the third and one in both the fourth and fifth innings. Getting runners on base has not been a problem as of late, but getting those run-scoring hits continues to elude the Big Red. Freshman All-American Carter Holton gave up eight hits to the Cornhuskers, but was able to get outs when he needed and limited damage for his five innings of work. However, that changed in the bottom of the sixth as an answer to Schreck’s second dinger.
Garrett Anglim, still hitting in the lower half of the lineup, started off the inning by getting hit by a Holton pitch, leading to Bryce Cunningham coming in to relieve the highly touted prospect for the 2024 draft. After Anglim stole second, he then advanced to third on an Everitt ground out to short. With one out and a runner in scoring position, Charlie Fischer pinch hit for Gabe Swansen and worked Cunningham to an eight pitch walk.
Runners on the corners and up comes Kansas transfer Casey Burnham, hitting from the nine hole today. The lefty hitter ripped a double down the right field line, scoring Anglim and moving Fischer to third, cutting the deficit to one run. The Cornhuskers then tied it up with Brice Matthews at the plate when Cunningham threw one to the backstop, scoring Fischer. When the dust cleared in the sixth, it was a 3-3 tie.
Shay Schanaman came in to start the seventh to face the 8-9-1 hitters. Schanaman was sharp getting three up and three down with a pop up, strike out and a ground out by lead-off hitter Enrique Bradfield, Jr. The momentum seemed to have swung to the boys from the Big Ten. The Big Red put another runner on base in the bottom of the seventh with a Max Anderson single. However, he was doubled up on a sharp line drive hit by Josh Caron to right field on a hit and run.
Schanaman sparkled in the eighth, starting with a strikeout before giving up his first hit of the game to Jonathan Vastine. However, Vastine was stranded at first when the Commodore power hitters lined and popped up to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Thomas Schultz took the mound to face the hot-hitting Garrett Anglim. On an 0-2 pitch, the big right-handed hitter from Papillion-LaVista skied a home run to left field, putting the Cornhuskers up 4-3.
Schultz struck out Everitt and got Fischer to ground out to second base. With two outs, Casey Burnham got his second double of the game, slicing this one down the left field line. Brice Matthews then picked up an RBI switching places with Burnham with a double of his own. Nebraska owned a two-run lead 5-3 going to the top of the ninth.
With Kyle Perry warming in the bullpen, Coach Bolt opted to stick with Schanaman to start the inning. The graduate student from Grand Island eliminated any drama for Nebraska fans. He threw two pitches to R.J. Austin, who lined out to Cole Evans, who replaced Charlie Fischer in right. He then struck out Parker Noland on four pitches. With Nebraska fans on their feet and clapping, Alan Espinal grounded out to Dylan Carey at third to end the game. Nebraska wins a big one in a 5-3 upset of a top ten team! Shay Schanaman picked up his first win of the season while Thomas Schultz was hung with the loss for Vandy.
Ultimately, the only number on the stat line that matters is the five in the run column. It is also important to note that Nebraska is hitting the ball, in this game out slugging the Commodores 13 to 5. As the game went on, Cornhusker hitters stepped up to the challenge getting those timely hits. And, outside of the three big swings that led to three runs, Nebraska pitching was very strong today. What a dramatic change to two weeks ago in southern California.
Nebraska will be back at it tomorrow against Hawaii with a 3:00 start time. Jace Kaminska will make his third start of the season looking for his second win. The game will once again be streamed on B1G+ or better yet, listen to two of the best college baseball announcers in the business Greg Sharpe and Ben McLaughlin on the Huskers Radio Network.