An estimated 8,000 fans showed up to Charles Schwab field on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, the biggest crowd the Big Ten Tournament had seen in 4 years. They were treated to a back and forth thrill ride. “There was a lot of intensity in that game. We haven’t played in a lot of games like that (this year),” said Husker head coach WIll Bolt.
After a quick 1-2-3 first inning by Olson, Brice Matthews made his return, and drove a ball 384 feet that was caught 5 feet in front of the fence by Rutgers center fielder Ryan Lasko. It looked like Nebraska would go quietly after that with two groundouts, however Max Anderson upon review beat the throw out, and kept the inning alive. Working out of the stretch, Christian Coppola walked Gabe Swansen, bringing up the red hot Charlie Fischer. Fischer took the first pitch he saw and shot a deep fly to left that ended up in the Husker bullpen! 3-0 Cornhuskers after 1.
You could tell in the top of the fourth, the zone started to get a little squeezed for both pitchers. It didn’t affect anyone until the 5th, when Olson was up 0-2 in the count, but ended up walking not only the leadoff batter but the second one as well. That brought up the top of the lineup with no outs. A sac fly by Lasko put Rutgers on the board. Two batters later Evan Sleight hit a ball to the wall that ended up being a 2 run double. Corbin Hawkins had to come in to relieve Olson and get the Big Red out of the inning. New game 3-3 after 5.
Hawkins steadied the game with a quick 6th, and the Huskers got Ben Columbus on via a HBP, then he stole second on a failed hit-and-run. Evans walked to put two on with two out for All Big Ten short stop Brice Matthews. All Matthews did was ground out to short, preserving the tie.
The seventh is where things went sideways. A lead off single followed by a sac bunt put a runner on second with 1 out. The Huskers went to get Shay Schanaman out of the pen. To say Schanaman struggled would be an understatement. A tough called error on Matthews was followed up by a walk, then a bases loaded HBP, a walk and a sac fly. In all, Rutgers plated 3 runs, off of only 1 hit. They led at stretch time, 6-3.
All it takes to get back in a game is baserunners. Nebraska led off the bottom of the inning by Casey Burnham getting hit by his 20th pitch of the year. Max Anderson then drilled a double down the left field line. And before the crowd could even sit down after applauding, Gabe Swansen turned on a fastball and put it in the left field bleachers. His 18th homer of the season tied the game at 6-6.
Rutgers went to get their closer just like the Huskers, and it looked like he would take control of this game, getting 2 quick outs. However, just like Schanaman, he completely fell apart. A Ben Columbus single was followed up by 4 walks and a hit by pitch, and just like that, Nebraska was back up 9-7 and did not have to worry about Rutgers best reliever anymore.
Rutgers used a leadoff walk, followed by a double and a single to cut the lead down to 9-7 with runners on the corner and 1 out in the 8th. A slow rollover to third base was gobbled up by Dylan Carey, and he made an incredible throw to second with his momentum taking him towards first base line. Max Anderson as always made a quick turn at second, and the Huskers got the biggest double play of their season, keeping a run off the board.
BLACKSHIRTS COMING UP CLUTCH. ☠️ pic.twitter.com/5Dl5deU8mr— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) May 24, 2023
Neither team threatened after that, and the Huskers held on for their most back and forth victory of the season.
Nebraska will be back in action Thursday to take on the top seeded Maryland Terrapins with a projected game time of 6 pm. Jace Kaminska will climb the bump for the Big Red, while Maryland is expected to go with Friday night starter Nick Dean.