Nebraska baseball’s Saturday doubleheader was truly a tale of two games as the Huskers squeaked past Minnesota 6-4 in game one, but dominated in game two, winning 17-5.
The Huskers’ record improved to 10-4 on the year while the victories improved the team’s winning streak to five games.
Nebraska struck first after a sacrifice bunt by senior outfielder Jaxon Hallmark moved fellow senior outfielder Joe Acker to second base following his leadoff walk. After a single by junior infielder Spencer Schwellenbach, junior outfielder Cam Chick scored Acker on a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
Junior infielder Zack Raabe finally got the Golden Gophers in the hit column as he led off the fourth inning. Three batters later, he would come around to score after senior outfielder Gabe Knowles punched a single through the right side of the infield, tying the game at 1.
After holding one of the highest fielding percentages in the nation, Nebraska junior pitcher Chance Hroch overthrew first base on a bunt to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead in the fifth. He was replaced by junior pitcher Tyler Martin, with Hroch finishing the day with 4.2 innings pitched and striking out seven batters.
Martin worked his way out of a jam in the fifth and recorded the first out in the sixth before allowing back-to-back baserunners courtesy of a walk and hit by pitch. The hard-throwing junior pitcher Cam Wynne came in and surrendered an RBI double and a sacrifice fly to give the Gophers a 4-1 lead.
The Huskers loaded the bases in both the fifth and sixth innings, with the latter proving to be the difference.
A dropped ball in foul territory allowed sophomore pinch hitter Leighton Banjoff to draw a walk with two outs. With all bases occupied, the Huskers forced two straight walks and tied the game on an error made by Gopher senior infielder Jack Wassel fielding a ground ball.
Minnesota senior pitcher Ryan Duffy walked Schwellenbach and hit Chick with a pitch, giving the Huskers a two-run lead heading into the seventh inning. In total, Nebraska hitters were walked four times in the inning leading to five big runs, a discrepancy which proved to be the deciding factor.
“Really good, team oriented approaches today just passing the torch to the next guy by taking our walks and working long counts,” Nebraska baseball head coach Will Bolt said postgame. “When they make some mistakes you have a chance to put some runs on the board and that’s what we did.”
Minnesota sophomore pitcher Jack Liffrig was playing well before his reliever’s tough inning gave Nebraska an opening. He went 5.2 innings and only allowed one earned run against a dynamic Husker lineup, before turning it over to Duffy.
Schwellenbach came in to pitch the final frame of game one, securing his third save of the season after making quick work of the heart of Minnesota’s order. After a bleak first couple innings, Nebraska managed to do just enough to walk away with a 6-4 win in game one.
Things would continue to get worse for the Golden Gophers in game two.
The Huskers once more would get in the scoring column during the first inning, this time courtesy of a towering grand slam by senior infielder Luke Roskam. It was 4-0 with Nebraska out front, and then came the third inning.
“You have a lopsided game like that, there are still some big moments in there and none bigger than the grand slam,” Bolt said. “It looked like they might wiggle out of it with no damage and then obviously Roskam put a good swing on it.”
With help from a poor outing from Golden Gopher starting pitcher Patrick Fredrickson, Chick blasted another long ball to right-center to put Nebraska up 6-0 starting the third. In that inning, Nebraska brought 12 batters to the plate in the inning, scoring eight runs to extend their lead to 12-0.
Chick came up again in the frame and was inches away from hitting his second long ball of the inning, as the ball bounced off the wall and Hallmark scored.
It was a dominant performance from the Huskers, who also got four strong innings from junior pitcher Jake Bunz. Pitching with a lead all game, the JUCO transfer struck out five and only gave up two hits in his shutout performance.
The scoring would continue into the fifth inning after freshman infielder Max Anderson continued his impressive campaign with an RBI sacrifice fly. A wild pitch scoring Hallmark made the deficit for the Golden Gophers 13, now 14-1.
Roskam once again went deep to straight away center field on a ball that barely snuck out, growing the lead to 16-1 after five innings. This marked six runs batted in on the day for the left-hander and brought his total to three home runs on the season.
Another home run by Banjoff sealed the game at 17-5 after the 10-run mercy rule was implemented in the seventh. Nebraska senior pitcher Trey Kissack recorded the save for Nebraska and gave them its fifth straight win.
‘We’ve got a pretty deep team and it was just really good to see contributions from up and down the order,” Bolt said. “We have great leadership on our team and that guys that haven’t played much stayed ready and it showed today.”
Nebraska will return home looking for the sweep in the final game of the series against Minnesota tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Junior pitcher Shay Schanaman will pitch for the Huskers and sophomore Trent Schoeberl will take the mound for the Golden Gophers.