Senior third baseman Angelo Altavilla drove in three runs in the game’s first three innings and Nebraska used a five-run third inning to earn a convincing 8-2 win over Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Huskers started the game hot as junior outfielder Mojo Hagge worked a nine-pitch walk. A wild pitch and defensive error by the Golden Gophers helped Nebraska, but Altavilla brought the first two runs in with a warning track triple to right field. After a sacrifice fly, the Huskers took an early 3-0 lead.
Senior Matt Waldron got the start on the mound and also began well, striking out the side in the first inning. He kept Minnesota at bay throughout the game, striking out a season-high nine batters and allowing just two runs. He also threw 7.1 innings, helping preserve Nebraska’s bullpen for upcoming games in the tournament.
“The run support absolutely helped, but I still had to stay locked in,” Waldron said after the game.
Minnesota earned a run back in the bottom of the second, but it was no match for Nebraska’s third-inning explosion. Altavilla and sophomore catcher Gunner Hellstrom both drove in runs with singles before freshman Spencer Schwellenbach’s three-RBI double brought Nebraska’s lead to 8-1.
Both offenses then went quiet, as the two teams combined for just two baserunners through the next three innings. Nebraska earned two walks in the seventh inning but couldn’t score from either of them. Following the big third inning, the Huskers didn’t record a hit the rest of the way, instead riding the hot start and stellar pitching performance to victory.
“They’re ready to play and they understand how important every pitch is,” Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said.
After two singles in the bottom of the eighth inning, one Waldron left and another joined, as senior Mike Waldron took the mound. Unfortunately for Mike, his appearance was not as successful as he allowed a single and hit a batter to load the bases. Junior Robbie Palkert came in to shut down the late rally and finished the game out.
While the hits were lacking for the Huskers, they collected four walks and three hit by pitches, and stole three bases as well. Minnesota out-hit Nebraska 7-4 on the night, but couldn’t convert its chances into runs.
“This time of the year, we’ve got to get big hits,” Erstad said. “When you get six runs with two outs, that’s how you win baseball games.”
Nebraska’s win over Minnesota completed an upset-filled day of action at the Big Ten Baseball Tournament, as the lower-seeded team won in all four of the day’s contests. With the victory, Nebraska will move on to face eighth-seeded Iowa, which defeated No. 1 seed Indiana 4-2.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Altavilla said. “They took two of three from us, so we’re going to be playing with a chip on our shoulder. Hopefully the fans have the same intensity, and it’ll be a lot of fun tomorrow night.”
First pitch is set for 9 p.m. Thursday night at TD Ameritrade Park and the game will broadcast on Big Ten Network.