Banjoff 3.8.20

Nebraska's Leighton Banjoff slides into first during the game against Colombia at Hawks Field on Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Nebraska was able to take three of four games this weekend and win the series as it blew out Columbia 12-5 thanks to a 15-hit  effort by the Huskers. Seven Husker pitchers contributed to the victory in a bullpen game. Nebraska was able to come out on top and win its first series of the season in front of a home crowd that showed up in numbers throughout the weekend.

The Huskers kicked off the scoring in the bottom half of the first as sophomore designated hitter Cam Chick launched an opposite-field three-run shot out to left field, giving Nebraska an early 3-0 lead. Chick’s home run came after back-to-back walks from freshman third baseman Leighton Banjoff and junior outfielder Aaron Palensky that helped set up Chick with runners on first and second. 

Banjoff then drove in runs in both the second and fourth innings with an RBI single and a run-scoring double as he helped extend Nebraska’s lead to 5-1.

In the fifth, senior catcher Luke Roskam launched an opposite-field home run of his own as his two-run homer extended Nebraska’s lead to 7-2. Nebraska tacked on another pair of runs in the seventh inning to make it a 9-5 game after sophomore shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach scored on a wild pitch and freshman first baseman Luke Boynton drove in the ninth run with an RBI single. 

The Huskers scored their final three runs in the eighth as Roskam drove in Nebraska’s 10th run with a sacrifice fly, before another Boynton single brought home the 11th and 12th runs to finish the scoring for Nebraska.

“Today I think we came out with a team attitude, every at-bat is another chance to keep things going for the team and keeping that same approach we have as a team,” Chick said. “Being able to get some momentum going with this series win is huge with Big Ten play coming up, we just gotta keep our head down and keep working but it was really exciting to see what we can do as a team.”

In a game that saw Nebraska’s bullpen be called upon throughout, head coach Will Bolt was able to navigate the game well as seven Husker pitchers helped contribute to the winning cause. Freshman Caleb Feekin started on the mound for the Huskers and  ended his day after 2.1 innings, allowing one run on two hits with one strikeout and one walk. 

Sophomore Tyler Martin came in for 0.2 innings with one walk and one strikeout, freshman Quinn Mason pitched  two stellar innings, striking out four, while sophomore Bo Blessie allowed two runs without recording an out. Junior Trey Kissack (1 inning), freshman Sayer Diederich (0.2 innings) and junior Max Schreiber (2.1 innings) finished the job.

“We knew it was going to be a bullpen day and I was really happy with what I saw from the guys that came out of the pen and ate up some solid innings,” Bolt said. “I think we still left some plays out there that we’ll continue to clean up but I feel like we are staying behind the ball better and remaining disciplined and were ready to hit but also were able to lay off as well.”

Columbia was forced to use six pitchers as it struggled to keep the Husker bats at bay as senior AJ DiFillipo began on the mound and battled through two innings, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks as he was forced to exit early. Sophomore Jacob Phelps was called in relief and he was able to get through three innings but allowed three runs on six hits and one walk. Senior Will West had a clean inning of work before junior Ryan Meury struggled, recording only one out as two runs crossed the plate. Freshmen Mike Decker (1.1 innings, three unearned runs) and Phil Healy (0.1 innings) finished off the game for Columbia. 

Columbia’s runs came via a home run from freshman Weston Eberly to make it a 3-1 game in the second inning, and an error allowed a second run to score in the fifth. Eberly then drove in two more runs with a single in the sixth and junior Josh Nicoloff drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh to finish off the scoring for Columbia.

“I felt good about today and it was a lot of fun being able to be a part of the team effort like that and compete and come out on top the way we did,” Boynton said.

The Huskers, now 5-8, will return to Hawks Field  on Tuesday, March 10 as they take on Northern Colorado at 4:05 p.m.