In what has become one of the better Big Ten rivalries on the diamond in the past few years, Michigan and Nebraska put on one of the best performances in recent years in a 10 inning thriller. The stars of the show were the two starting pitchers, probably the top 2 left handed Friday night guys in the conference, in Emmett Olson for Nebraska and Connor O’Halloran for Michigan.
O’Halloran threw 9 innings and had 4 Ks on 111 pitches. He gave up one run on 6 hits. His one run came in the 3rd inning as Nebraska center fielder Casey Burnham his a solo shot for his first home run as a Husker. The left handed, number 9 hitter was maybe the unlikeliest of guys to strike the first big blow of the game, but he put the Huskers up 1-0 in a game where runs would be at an absolute premium.
First #Huskers HR for Casey Burnham! pic.twitter.com/TWsHeRTiAT— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) April 7, 2023
Not to be outdone, Emmett Olson had a no-hitter going through the majority of the game. The fastest working starter in the conference was in a rhythm, and working even faster than usual. He was barely getting the ball back from the catcher before starting his windup, and it was keeping the Michigan hitter off balance.
It took until the bottom of the 7th for the Wolverines to finally put one in the hit column. After a leadoff walk, Joey Velazquez hit a ball to the wall that Husker left fielder Gabe Swansen just missed pulling in. That put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, but Olson and the top defense in the Big Ten dug deep, and kept Michigan off the board.
The lone blemish in Olson’s 7.2 innings pitched came with 1 out in the 8th. Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the week, and hottest hitter on Michigan, Jonathon Kim (who just so happened to be a left handed 9-hole hitter himself) took a low and inside curve ball from Olson and hit a line drive that just cleared the fence to tie the game at 1-1. Olson would strike out the next batter, his 8th of the game on 108 pitches, but give way to Shay Schanaman out of the bullpen who struck out Ted Burton to end the inning.
After a quick 9th inning by O’Halloran and Schanaman, Michigan finally went to their bullpen for extra innings, and sent their most used reliever, Noah Rennard to the mound. Following a pop out by Cole Evans, Burnham stepped to the plate again, hitting a slow roller to second base which he was able to beat out and safely reach first base. That brought up Brice Matthews, and if you’ve been watching Nebraska baseball lately, you can almost guess what happened next.
Matthews took a strike for his first pitch, and as third base coach Lance Harvell does nearly 100% of the time with the speedy Burnham on base and an 0-1 count on the batter, he dialed up a hit and run. Rennard threw a low breaking pitch that Matthews had to almost go down to one knee to dig out. But Matthews did exactly that, hitting it squarely on the barrel, and driving it over the outfield wall to give Nebraska the 3-1 lead.
Hit and run? Nah.— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) April 7, 2023
HIT AND HOME RUN. pic.twitter.com/bFL7Lr750A
Schanaman came back out to try and shut Michigan down again. After losing control of his slider a bit, he was able to induce a pop-up for an out, then struck out Mitch Voit. He lost his slider twice again, in fact hitting Wolverine batter Gabe Sotres. This brought up the one guy Nebraska did not want to see again, in Jonathon Kim. Kim could not get a read on the slider though, as he fouled off 1 pitch before watching the last two go by for the strikeout, as Nebraska claimed the hard fought 3-1 victory.
The Huskers will look to claim the series on Saturday, as Jace Kaminska takes the mound, with first pitch scheduled for 1pm CT.