In a tumultuous season that has had its fair share of ups and downs, Nebraska found itself in another game that really had the same feeling that you had about the entire season on a whole. Nebraska was always seemingly in the game, but just couldn’t quite finish it off to reach their goals.
Like the previous games in the tournament, the pitching staff kept Nebraska in the game, waiting for the offense to seize the opportunity. The offense waited as long as possible before getting into the action in the 9th inning.
Jackson Brockett began the game on the mound for the Huskers, and had a rough go early. Starter holding off the Terps in the 1st, a leadoff double was followed by a single. Then Maryland went with a strategy they don’t often employ, the bunt. Two attempts at a sac bunt, and both were able to not only move the runners over, but reach base themselves. That allowed 1 run to score. A 2 RBI single to the next batter pushed the Maryland lead to 3-0.
Being an elimination game, Nebraska tried another reliever. Corbin Hawkins came in, and was effective for an inning, then began to unravel. Kyle Perry relieved him and was able to get Nebraska out of a bases loaded jam in the 4th, before giving up a solo home run in the 5th, allowing the Maryland lead to grow to 4-0.
All this time Jason Savacool had the Husker offense reeling. He struggled early in the year, but said he changed his mechanics and went more with a 4 seam fastball, instead of his sinking 2 seamer that had made him a preseason All American. He went 6 innings, shutting out Nebraska, and giving up only 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6.
The bullpens and defenses went to work for the teams, with Shay Schanaman entering in the 6th, and Maryland switching in the 7th. Two days earlier, Schanaman pitched 2.2 innings and had Maryland completely off balance until Nick Lorusso drove his final pitch over the left field wall. Schanaman was even better today, pitching the final 4 innings for Nebraska, giving up no runs, no hits, and only 1 walk.
“Has Schanaman graduated?” was the first phrase out of the mouth of Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn at the press conference, before anyone could even offer up a question. Schanaman’s performance allowed the Huskers to stay within striking distance, and as Maryland changed pitchers for the bottom of the 9th, they took advantage.
Nebraska was able to coax 3 straight walks to lead off the inning from new pitcher Nigel Belgrave, and the crowd of 9,000 roared to life! After Maryland brought in Andrew Johnson, Cole Evans then hit a single, he was 3-3 on the day with a double, scoring 1 run. Pinch hitter Griffin Everitt worked a 3-0 count much to the delight of the crowd, but ended up striking out.
That turned the lineup over and brought Brice Matthews to the plate. Matthews liked the first pitch he saw, and sent it into right-center, where both Maryland outfielder collided at full speed. Somehow the right fielder was able to hang on to the ball, and get it in, allowing only one run to score on the sac fly. That brought Max Anderson up as the winning run with 2 outs. There is no one the Huskers would rather have in that situation. Max swung and missed on a fastball, fouled one off, and then sent an outside pitch flying into the air towards the right field bullpen as he’s done so many times. The Maryland right fielder kept drifting back and back until his back was a foot away from the wall and made the catch.
Five feet was all that stood between the Huskers winning Thursday against Maryland as Lorusso’s game winning home run just cleared the fence. The same could be said today, as Anderson’s drive came up just short.
Nebraska ends its season 33-23-1, losing twice to the top seed in the tournament.