“Sunday” is a word both Michigan and Nebraska have to be dreading with each of their respective struggles this season in closing out series. Add to that a tied series and it made for a big rubber match between a Wolverine team that came into the weekend in first place in the conference, and a Husker team looking for its first conference series road win since April 3rd of last year.
Nebraska was throwing a new Sunday starting pitcher in Will Walsh. Fresh off 3 successful outings in either relief or mid-week starting roles, Walsh was trying to turn the Huskers’ Sunday fortunes around.
It seemed like it might be more of the same for NU though, as 3 singles in the bottom of the 1st inning gave Michigan an early 2-0 lead. It did not last long. Josh Caron, who had been attempting to bust out of a slump coming into the weekend did so in a big way. He got the Huskers on the board with a solo shot off of Wolverine starting pitcher Jacob Denner to lead off the 2nd.
Nebraska wasn’t done yet. After 2 outs, including a long battle with Cole Evans, Denner gave up back to back singles. This brought the top of the Husker order around for their 2nd time seeing the big lefty from Michigan. If you’ve followed Nebraska a lot this season, you know they feast on starting pitching the second time through the order. Combine that with how hot the bat of Brice Matthews is, and the 3 run home run he smashed over the left field wall was almost expected. Just like that, it was 4-2, Big Red.
Walsh seemed to finally find himself in the bottom of the 2nd, using the momentum the offense provided him to sit down the Michigan offense fairly quickly. And that momentum would continue as Max Anderson led off the top of the 3rd. As he does better than just about anyone, he took an outside pitch and launched it down the right field line, clearing the wall for his team leading 11th home run of the season. Later in the inning, back to back doubles would give Nebraska a 6-2 lead, and chase Denner from the game.
Will Walsh had to battle over his final inning. A pair of singles sandwiched around a walk had the bases full of Wolverines with 2 outs in the third. Walsh threw a pitch that caught too much of the plate and Michigan freshman Mitch Voit hammered a line drive up the middle, only to have Walsh just barely get his hand up in time to snag it right in front of his face, saving the inning, and some dental work.
The bottom of the 4th was another struggle for the Nebraska pitching staff. Left fielder Jake Marti led off the inning with a solo home run to cut the lead to 6-3, and end Walsh’s day. Michael Garza stepped in to relieve, and gave up a quick double followed by a walk. Garza would induce a pop out, but then red hot freshman Jonathon Kim hit a hard grounder up the middle, only to have Max Anderson playing a shift gobble it up and throw him out at first to end really the final threat for the Wolverines on the day.
After scratching across a run in the 5th, the Huskers really opened the game up in the 6th. With 2 outs in the inning, Brice Matthews and Casey Burnham both walked and stole a base. After being up 3-0 in the count, Max Anderson took back to back curveballs for called strikes. Then the Michigan pitcher decided to throw it a 3rd time, and Anderson quickly deposited the ball in the right field gap for a double, scoring both speedy Huskers. Anderson was brought in a few pitches later on a Charlie Fischer RBI single, and the rout was on, 10-3 Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers would push across another run in the 7th, as Michigan’s defense seemed to give in to defeat and make a couple errors. The Husker bullpen kept cruising, as Garza finished his 4 innings pitched with 4 Ks and no earned runs allowed. He gave way to fireballer Jake Bunz for the final 2 innings, and all he did was strike out 4 of the 7 batters he faced without allowing a run to give the Huskers not only the 11-3 win, but the conference road victory as well.
Those 6 shutout innings by the bullpen combined with the 7 extra base hits, including 3 home runs, is something Nebraska hasn’t seen on a Sunday in a long time. If they can repeat that formula, a whole lot of series victories should start to pile up. The Huskers next game is set for Tuesday April 11th, as they return home to Haymarket Park for a game against the Omaha Mavericks, with first pitch set for 6:02.