Nebraska baseball will look to continue its hot streak as it takes on the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks on Wednesday, April 17 at Werner Park in suburban Omaha.
Over the weekend, the Huskers traveled to State College, Pennsylvania, to face the Penn State Nittany Lions in a three-game series. The offense was quiet at the expansive Medlar Field, scoring only ten runs, but strong defense and lights-out pitching allowed only five runs, propelling Nebraska to its third conference sweep of the season and into first place in the Big Ten.
With offense at a premium, many players were in position to play the hero for Nebraska. In game one, sophomore Keegan Watson blasted a two-run home run in the sixth inning to tie the game at two and freshman Colby Gomes drove in the go-ahead third run later in the sixth.
In game two, Gomes gave Nebraska a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning with an RBI double and senior Angelo Altavilla provided an insurance run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Game three was the lowest-scoring game of the series, a 3-1 Nebraska win, punctuated by a two-run eighth inning. Nebraska took its first lead of the game on a passed ball with the bases loaded and a sacrifice fly by freshman Cameron Chick.
Normally, freshman Kyle Perry would start Nebraska’s midweek game, but this marks the team’s second midweek game this week, a scheduling oddity that forces Nebraska to find another starter. Options include Perry, Gomes, or senior Matt Waldron, who has been stellar in long relief for the Huskers this season.
UNO (21-9-1) enters the game without having played a game on a neutral field, as Werner Park will be. Last weekend, the Mavericks lost two of three games on the road at Oral Roberts. They split a doubleheader, falling 8-7 on a walk-off single after petering away a 6-1 lead in game one, but bounced back to win the second game of Friday’s twin bill 4-2. ORU won Sunday’s rubber match 10-7.
Ben Palensky, the older brother of Nebraska’s Aaron Palensky, hit his first home run of the season in game one and was one of three Mavericks, including Parker Smejkal and Thomas DeBonville, to drive in two runs in the game. Smejkal provided the big blast for UNO in game two, hitting a three-run home run in the eighth to put his team up 4-0. DeBonville and Keil Krumwiede drove in two runs apiece on Sunday.
DeBonville and Smejkal are UNO’s offensive leaders this year. DeBonville has started all 31 games and leads the team in RBIs with 25. He has hit three home runs, four doubles and four triples this season. Smejkal has the team’s highest batting average — hitting .375 — as well as on-base percentage, reaching base at a .531 clip and a .681 slugging percentage. He leads the team in home runs with five and also has seven doubles.
The pitching staff is led by Payton Kinney, this week’s Summit League Pitcher of the Week. Nebraska will likely avoid the 6-foot-4 righty, as he is UNO’s frontline weekend starter.
Nebraska could see Andrew Brighton or Jackson Gordon, who have both started games this year despite typical bullpen roles. Both have ERAs around four and struggle with their command, with a combined strikeout-to-walk ratio of 21:16.
Wednesday’s game is set for a 6:35 p.m. first pitch with Nebraska designated as the visiting team.