What’s the best way to honor one of the best offensive players in school history? How about 18 runs on 19 hits with 4 home runs? On “Matt Hopper Day” the Huskers honored the 2003 Big 12 Player of the Year, who threw out the first pitch and was featured in a bobble head giveaway, along with the 2003 Big 12 Championship team.
For the first time in what seems like months, Nebraska actually took the lead in the first inning. Minnesota’s George Klassen was working out the radar gun, regularly hitting 100 and 101 mph, but had issues finding the zone with regularity. Nebraska took advantage with 2 walks, and then Brice Matthews scored on the first of numerous Gopher miscues on the day, as the 3rd baseman couldn’t handle a ground ball.
The next run would come off the bat of Max Anderson. Anderson hit the first of his two home runs on the day. The wind was straining the flags on the left center flagpoles all day. The Husker second baseman hit a towering fly ball that went for a ride in the wind and snuck over the fence, as the Gopher right fielder slammed his hands on the top of the fence in frustration. After being in a slump for the past week and a half, Anderson busted out in a big way. He went 4 for 6 with the aforementioned 2 home runs, 4 RBIs and 3 runs scored.
A Matthews RBI double added to the lead in the 4th. Gabe Swansen would join the home run party in the 5th, a 2 run shot, for his 12th of the year. This put the Huskers in control of the game, at 5-0. Then Minnesota went to its struggling bullpen for the 6th inning, and that is when the Husker offense really took off. 3 straight singles, followed by some defensive miscues, that included Matthews stealing home, gave the Huskers a 9-0 lead after 6.
All this time, Jace Kaminska had been pitching an absolute gem in the top halves of the innings. Like Anderson, Kaminska had been slumping off recently, and really came out of it today. The Husker righty tied a season high with 7 innings pitched, allowed no runs, no walks and struck out a season high 7 batters. He never allowed the Gophers to get any momentum going. The Husker’s big 6th inning, along with Kaminska coming right back with another 0 seemed to break the will of the Minnesota team.
The 7th is where the game really went sideways. Nebraska scored 8 runs on 6 hits. Max Anderson hit his 2nd of the day and 15th of the year, tying Matthews for the team lead in what has been a memorable home run battle between the two all year. Josh Caron also came out of a slump himself, hitting both a double and home run in the inning.
Kyle Perry entered the game in the 8th, and struck out all 3 batters he faced. The Huskers then added a final run in the 8th, and JC Gutierrez come in to pitch the 9th and preserved the shutout.
The rubber match for the teams will be Sunday at Hawks Field with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 pm.