On Senior Day, the Huskers sent their 2023 seniors out in style, sweeping their final home series, and putting themselves in place to no only guarantee their spot in Omaha in a week and a half, but to also knock out the team that used more than questionable tactics to keep them out of the Big Ten Tournament a year ago. #NeverForget
For the first time all weekend, Penn State was able to get a lead on the Huskers. A single, followed by a double put two runners on with 2 outs. Nebraska was able to get a ground ball to potentially end the inning, but a throwing error on short stop Brice Matthews allowed an unearned run to score.
The Nebraska offense wasn’t fazed being behind for the first time in 4 games. Brice Matthews drew a leadoff walk, and was bunted over to second. Max Anderson then rocketed an RBI double just inside the left field line to bring Matthews home.
Next up in the inning was Gabe Swansen, who would be a thorn in the side of the Nittany Lions all day, hit a deep drive to the right field power alley, which Johnny Piacentino made a spectacular diving catch on to rob Swansen of at least a double. The catch was so deep, and Piacentino had to take so much time getting up, that Anderson was able to score all the way from second on the sac fly. A few pitches later, Josh Caron smashed a 1-2 fastball over the left field fence and just like that, Nebraska was up 3-1 after 1 inning.
Husker starting pitcher Will Walsh made quick work of Penn State in the 2nd, and put the offense right back onto the field against the reeling Nittany Lions starter. A single, then bunt single, and walk loaded the bases for Nebraska. Casey Burnham stepped to the plate and for the 19th time this season, good for the 6th most in a season in Husker history, he was hit by a pitch. This one put the Huskers up 4-1.
Penn State was able to plate a couple more runs in the 4th off of Walsh. As they have all series, the normally light hitting Nittany Lions used the long ball to score. First baseman Josh Spiegel, who has had a less than stellar series not only at the plate, but on the field, hit a 2 run bomb into his teams bullpen to bring the score to 4-3.
Sidearm relief pitcher Corbin Hawkins stepped onto the mound for Walsh in the 5th, and quickly sat the Lions down on 10 pitches. Max Anderson led off the bottom of the inning with a solid single to center, he would finish 3 for 4 on the day. This brought Swansen to the plate again. After fouling a couple pitches off, he squared one up the opposite way, and put it in the bullpen for his 16th home run of the season. I don’t think anyone has enjoyed a season at Haymarket Park quite like Swansen. 14 of his 16 home runs have come at his home park. And this one put the Huskers up 6-3.
Hawkins would run into trouble in the 7th, as two men reached on singles. They attempted a double steal, and Husker catcher Josh Caron’s throw to third went into the outfield allowing a runner to score. After another single, Nebraska turned to senior Shay Schanaman and he was able to induce a groundout, but the runner scored from third on the play, and the score was 6-5 Big Red.
Schanaman would be allowed to go out for another batter, before being pulled to a standing ovation for the 5th year senior. Fellow super senior Kyle Perry took his spot on the mound, got two quick fly balls, and raced into the dugout before the second one was eve caught.
Cole Evans led off the bottom of the 8th with a stand up double. Looking for one insurance run, Dylan Carey bunted him over to third. After walking Casey Burnham, the Penn State coaching staff decided to intentionally walk Max Anderson, who was batting .500 on the series. This brought up, you guessed it, Gabe Swansen, with the bases full of Huskers. He pulled a ball right past the diving short stop and it rolled almost to the warning track for a 2 RBI double. 8-5 Cornhuskers.
While I’m sure Kyle Perry appreciated the extra runs, he didn’t need them one bit. A groundout, pop out, and 3 pitch strikeout let the heart and soul of this Husker team, despite all his injuries walk off his home field with a save, and a giant roar of appreciation from the many Husker faithful in the stands.
This is the type of roar we love to hear. pic.twitter.com/D4VBNlMDP5— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) May 14, 2023
Big Ten Tournament
As stated above, this win put Nebraska at 13 conference wins on the season. With Illinois losing, having only 12 wins and having a week off from conference play next week, that means 5 teams are guaranteed to finish below Nebraska.
Thus far Indiana, Maryland, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and Rutgers are all solidly in. Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern are officially out. So that means Illinois at 12 wins is the leader in the clubhouse for getting the 7th spot, Michigan State and Purdue both have 10 wins. And the team that still has a mathematical chance after a stronger past couple weeks is Minnesota with 8 wins.
Michigan State owns the tiebreaker with Purdue, so Nebraska has a pretty good chance with a solid showing next week of knocking the Boilermakers out of the Big Ten Tournament. The revenge would be so sweet I can almost taste it right now!!
Thank you and congrats to all of this year’s seniors, and the ones that came back for a 5th year. It’s been a pleasure watching them for the between 1 and 5 years they have been on the team. Let’s go make a tournament run!