Nebraska baseball rode an early-inning offensive explosion and strong pitching effort to victory for the second game in a row, winning 11-1 over Iowa on Friday. With the win, Nebraska moved into a commanding position in the winner’s bracket of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament.
Senior Nate Fisher began the game on the mound for Nebraska and put the Hawkeyes down in order in the top of the first inning. He ran into trouble in the second inning as a long two-out rally gave Iowa the first run of the game. Fisher’s control looked suspect, as he gave up two singles and two walks to load the bases, but a flyout to center field held the damage to one run.
“I don’t ever doubt the offense, but getting out of that jam in the second was big, and I knew the offense was going to get rolling,” Fisher said.
Meanwhile, Nebraska locked onto Iowa starting pitcher Grant Judkins from the get-go, forcing him to leave the game without finishing two innings. The Huskers stranded two runners in the first inning, but kept up the pressure with a four-run second inning.
Senior second baseman Alex Henwood began the inning with a single and scored on a double from freshman shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach. A pair of walks to freshman first baseman Colby Gomes and junior outfielder Mojo Hagge loaded the bases before a single from freshman Cam Chick took Judkins out of the game.
“It wasn’t the greatest feeling having to go to the bullpen that early,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said after the game.
Iowa relief pitcher Jason Foster couldn’t stop the bleeding, as a single from sophomore outfielder Aaron Palensky and sacrifice fly from senior third baseman Angelo Altavilla pushed Nebraska’s lead to 4-1 to end the inning. The Huskers scored another off Foster in the third inning, as a single, hit by pitch and walk loaded the bases before Hagge brought in the run on another walk.
Fisher continued to keep the Hawkeyes at bay, despite their leadoff hitter reaching base in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings. He went seven innings and allowed just one run, striking out seven batters and once again keeping the Husker bullpen fresh for upcoming games.
“Nate just went on attack mode,” Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said. “He’s nearing the end of his career and he’s not going down without a fight.”
Meanwhile, Schwellenbach extended Nebraska’s lead to begin the fifth inning with a solo home run to left field. It was just his fourth of the season, but third against the Hawkeyes. Gomes followed with a double, later narrowly scoring on a sacrifice pop-up in foul territory to put the Huskers up 7-1.
A single and three consecutive walks brought in another run, and a single from sophomore catcher Gunner Hellstrom gave Nebraska its fourth run of the inning and a 9-1 lead.
Thanks to a 10-run mercy rule for the tournament, Nebraska ended the game early after scoring a run in both the seventh and eighth innings.
Nebraska’s top performers included Chick, who drove in four runs and Henwood, who went 3-3 from the plate and walked twice to reach base five times. Hellstrom and Schwellenbach both drove in two runs as well.
With the victory, Nebraska will take on the winner of tonight’s Minnesota-Iowa game at 9 a.m. on Saturday. With its position in the winner’s bracket, Nebraska will have two chances to advance to the championship game, with senior Reece Eddins taking the mound tomorrow.
“We’ve just got to get some rest and be ready to play tomorrow,” Erstad said.