#4 Nebraska Cornhuskers (32-22-1) at #8 Michigan State Spartans (33-21)
Location: Charles Schwab Field, Omaha, NE
Date/Time: Friday, May 26th @ 7 pm CT
Head Coaches: Will Bolt (4th season, 96-74-1) & Jake Boss Jr. (15th season, 441-387)
Radio: Huskers Radio Network, Huskers.com, Huskers App
Probable Pitchers: LHP Will Walsh (4-2, 5.14 ERA) & LHP Joseph Dzierwa (6-3, 5.94 ERA)
Michigan St. Scouting Report
The Spartans were the surprise team coming out of the non conference season, and after the first couple weeks of conference season. They sat 2nd in the standings before tumbling down to the 8-10 range for most of the season. They’ve had a resurgence the past few weeks, taking a series and knocking Indiana out of the top spot in the conference, then taking Maryland to the brink in the Big Ten Tournament before losing 3-2, and beating Rutgers 6-4.
Michigan State has one of the better offenses when you look at batting average, sitting 2nd in the Big Ten at .302, but they don’t drive in many runs compared to other teams in that same tier. First baseman Brock Vandenburg is the straw that stirs the drink for the Spartans. You name the offensive category and chances are the First Team All Big Ten pick leads the team in it. A .403 batting average, 13 home runs and 69 RBIs have him as a finalist for the Golden Spike Award (HAVE YOU VOTED FOR MAX TODAY?!) Really the only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases. The Spartans do run a fair amount though, with 74 steals on 102 attempts on the year.
Michigan State is going with their freshman Joseph Dzierwa, who spent a good part of the season as the Friday night starter. He is 6-3, with 54 strikeouts and 28 walks in 69+ innings. His ERA has been steadily climbing over the last month, and his strikeouts have dropped considerably since the first half of the season. He threw against Rutgers yesterday and gave up 1 hit and 2 walks without recording an out. As for the bullpen, the biggest weapon is Wyatt Rush, one of the best closers in the conference, but he pitched 4.2 innings against Rutgers, so shouldn’t be available today.
Nebraska Scouting Report
Nebraska has used both of its top 2 starting pitchers, and has gone to its top 2 relievers each of the last two days. I would think Shay Schanaman needs a day off physically, not to mention mentally. While he was spectacular in relief vs Maryland, his crash into the dugout fence followed immediately by giving up a walk up home run has to weigh on even the strongest person mentally. Corbin Hawkins has an easier arm motion that doesn’t get as strained as an over the top motion, and didn’t pitch too many pitches either outing. However, he had to get warm before the delay last night, then cool down, and get warm again, so it’s almost like 3 separate outings on his arm. In my gut, I still think Bolt would use him for a key situation as someone that needs to get warm immediately.
Speaking of ‘how can Shay recover mentally’… How will the entire team look after giving it their all only to have a baseball beat them by 5 feet, and putting them behind the 8 ball. Newly minted 20/20 man, Brice Matthews is clearly still banged up. The hot bat of Charlie Fischer has seemingly cooled. Someone besides the usual suspects is going to have to step up to get the Huskers to the next step.
Nebraska is going with a new lineup tonight, the “Moneyball” or analytics lineup of putting the guys you want to hit higher up in the order. Traditional batting order roles be damned.
Nebraska leads the all time series 15-9. They did not meet this season, but met at the end of last season with Nebraska beating them 2-1 to seemingly get the Huskers into the Big Ten Tournament, except you know… tarps gonna tarp. #NeverForget
Michigan State owns a 3-1 record against Nebraska and has actually handed the Huskers 2 of the more maddening losses in their Big Ten Tournament history for Nebraska.
In 2016, 7 seed MSU knocked off 2 seed Nebraska as Husker ace Derek Burkamper threw a bunted ball about 20 feet wide of first base in a 0-0 game and opened up the door for a 5 run inning in the 5-1 defeat in TD Ameritrade Park.
The most aggravating was 2015, when an upstart 8 seed Husker team led the 5 seed Spartans 7-3 in the 8th, when Spartan first baseman Ryan Krill sent a game tying grand slam into the Minneapolis sky that seemingly was still rising as it cleared no only the fence, but all the seats in right field at Target Field. The shell shocked Huskers gave up 2 more runs after that, and exited stage right. (Jesus, this was depressing. Why did I write all of it?)