If you ever needed a reminder about how important the bullpen is on a team, today provided the perfect example of that, on both sides. Reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Emmett Olson was making his first appearance since pitching the best game of his season at Michigan. Northwestern countered with their most dependable arm in Matt McClure.
Both pitchers really dominated the first 2 innings. A HBP granted the Huskers the only baserunner in those 4 frames. Then in the top of the 3rd, Olson gave up a solo home run, followed by only his 13th walk of the season. It was clear he didn’t have his normal arsenal of pitches.
The struggles for Olson continued in the 4th. He walked the bases loaded. After having only 12 total on the season, he gave up 4 on the day. Olson had yet to have a game where he didn’t make it through the 5th inning this year, so the Huskers did not have anyone in the bullpen until it was too late. Olson gave up a bases loaded, 2 RBI single. It was 3-1 Northwestern, and Husker head coach Will Bolt had to pull his ace after only 3.1 innings.
Sidearm reliever Corbin Hawkins strode to the top of the bump, where he has been on fire as of late. He gave up one run against Omaha on Tuesday, but that ended a streak of 7 straight outings with zero runs given up. Hawkins got a quick ground ball for a double play to end the inning. That would be a sign of things to come, as Hawkins would steady the game, and hold Northwestern scoreless in his 3.1 innings, giving up only 1 hit and 1 walk on the day.
McClure on the other had, was giving up fly balls, but didn’t give up a hit until a Max Anderson single in the 4th. Garrett Anglim then drew a walk, and on the next play Anderson advanced to third base on a fielder’s choice. Taking a page out of the Omaha playbook from Tuesday, Fischer then hit a deep sac fly to right, bringing in Anderson to cut the lead to 3-1.
It was at that point first year Wildcat head coach Jim Foster pulled his starter and went to his bullpen for the 5th inning. Dylan Carey immediately doubled down the line for the 2nd hit of the game. After the next hitter, Cole Evans, reached on a fielders choice, Brice Matthews tripled to right center to tie the game at 3-3.
Two batters later, Max Anderson hit his team leading 12th home run, and gave the Huskers the lead, 5-3. They would manufacture another run, and push the lead to 6-3 before the 5th inning finally came to an end.
Elevate and celebrate. pic.twitter.com/qcKFJ21o1T— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) April 14, 2023
As we’ve seen so many times lately, when Anderson homers, usually a Matthews homer isn’t too far behind. Today, the story remained the same. In the bottom of the 6th, Matthews turned around a 95 mph fastball and sent it back the other direction at an incredible 112 mph. To polish off the scoring, Max Anderson would be pushed across in the 7th, after leading off the inning with a double, and give Nebraska 8 unanswered runs.
Brice Matthews with the extra point. pic.twitter.com/RcvmM9XGyu— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) April 14, 2023
The bullpen kept rolling too, as Hawkins set the stage for Kyle Perry to take over, and the Husker super senior responded with his best outing of the year. His fastball was up to its old velocity, and he was hitting Josh Caron’s glove exactly where the Big Red’s catcher put it. Perry gave up only 1 hit, and struck out 4 in his 2.1 innings of work to finish off the 8-3 Nebraska win.
Things were already looking interesting for game 2 of the series on Saturday, as Coach Bolt announced that usual Saturday starter Jace Kaminska was getting the week off to rest. Jackson Brockett will be getting the start in his place. However, there is a front coming in that may hang around most of the day. To make matters worse, Northwestern has an early flight home on Sunday, so a doubleheader Sunday is likely off the table.
Thus, the teams will likely be hanging out at the park Saturday, trying to squeeze a game in somehow. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05pm, but make sure to check regularly for the latest updates.