A four-run third inning turned out to be the difference in Nebraska’s 8-5 regional win over UConn on Friday.
UConn led 4-1 after the first two innings, but the Huskers exploded in the top of the third inning to take a 5-4 lead and never trailed again.
Senior Angelo Altavilla and freshman Spencer Schwellenbach shined for the Huskers from the plate. Altavilla went 2-5 with two RBIs and a home run while Schwellenbach went 2-3 with an RBI and was walked twice.
Senior pitcher Nate Fisher got the start for Nebraska on the mound and struggled out of the gate. The first two batters for the Huskies reached on singles before senior Michael Woodworth hit into a double play. However, freshman Pat Winkel revived UConn’s inning on the next at-bat with a two-run homer.
In the bottom of the second inning, UConn extended its lead. The first two batters reached again, this time on a single and a double. The Huskies grounded out on the next at-bat, but junior Paul Gozzo came across to score a run. UConn scored again on an RBI single two batters later.
Fisher was not taken out until he gave up another run and three straight hits in the bottom of the fifth inning. Fisher finished the game having given up 13 hits, five earned runs and no strikeouts in 4.2 innings pitched.
Meanwhile, it took the Huskers a few innings to get going offensively. In the top of the first inning, Nebraska reached base once off of a fielding error. In the top of the second, Altavilla led off with a solo home run, but UConn junior pitcher Mason Feole retired the next three batters to maintain a 2-1 advantage.
Going into the third inning, the Huskers faced a 4-1 hole. However, Nebraska’s bats came alive. Freshman Colby Gomes led off with a single, followed up by two more singles from sophomore Jaxon Hallmark and freshman Cam Chick. Chick’s hit scored Gomes for the first of four runs in the inning. Sophomore Aaron Palensky walked on the next at-bat, loading the bases.
Schwellenbach and Altavilla both hit RBI singles on the ensuing at-bats to tie the game up at four runs apiece. After the first six batters for Nebraska reached, sophomore Gunner Hellstrom hit into a double play to put the first two outs of the inning on the board. However, Palensky was able to score on the play to give the Huskers their first lead in an NCAA regional since 2014.
Feole got his revenge in the top of the fourth inning, allowing a leadoff single on a bunt but striking out the next three Nebraska batters.
Despite collecting two more hits in the bottom of the fourth inning, UConn’s offense was unable to take advantage of the chance to get back in control.
Palensky fouled out to start the fifth inning, but Schwellenbach drew a walk to get on base. He then advanced to third after a wild pitch and a ground out from Altavilla. Hellstrom then brought Schwellenbach in with an RBI single to center field.
UConn responded with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut the deficit to 6-5, but that was the last time the Huskies would score all game.
After Fisher allowed three hits and two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, junior Robbie Palkert came in to try and turn things around. He succeeded in his mission, not allowing a single run and striking out four batters in 3.1 innings pitched.
Nebraska added insurance runs in both the sixth and ninth inning to take an 8-5 lead. Gomes came in on the mound in the bottom of the ninth and earned the save after allowing no runs off just one hit.
Most of the stats favored UConn heavily. The Huskies outhit Nebraska 19-13, and the Huskers struck out 16 times over the course of the game. However, the Huskies were doomed by their inability to capitalize on offense. UConn had a hit in every inning, including two or more hits in seven of those innings. They also had some struggles from the mound, walking four batters and hitting another.
Nebraska’s next opponent will be the winner of the game between first-seed Oklahoma State and fourth-seed Harvard.
That game is set to take place tomorrow at 7 p.m. on ESPN3.