Nebraska baseball battled back to a series win over Illinois Sunday afternoon after falling behind 5-0 early in the game.
The Husker offense caught fire and hit four home runs to eventually defeat the Fighting Illini 12-7.
“It was another crazy game here as this ballpark plays mostly offensive so you never know what you’re going to get,” head coach Will Bolt said postgame. “It was just a tremendous battle from our guys and our lineup was just relentless from the fourth inning on.”
Similar to yesterday’s game, Illinois got on the board first, courtesy of a two-run home run by sophomore infielder Branden Comia. He finished the day 1-for-3 and extended his hit streak to 37 games with his no-doubt home run giving the Fighting Illini a 2-0 lead.
Junior pitcher Shay Schanaman struggled in his outing, giving up five earned runs over 2.2 innings before being relieved. It was a tough start just a week after he only allowed two runs over seven innings against Minnesota.
Illinois added three more in the third frame to go up by five, when the Huskers called to the bullpen for junior pitcher Koty Frank. Over the course of his 3.2 innings of work, Frank shut down the Fighting Illini only surrendering two runs on four hits.
“I thought Koty got better as the game went along, he’s coming back from a setback so we’re just now building him up,” Bolt said. “The attack and his compete was good and that’s what we saw from him today.”
A home run by senior outfielder Jaxon Hallmark led off the fourth inning, with junior infielder Cam Chick rounding all bases on an inside-the-park-homer later in the inning. The Fighting Illini responded with a home run of their own off the bat of senior infielder Jackson Raper to go up 6-2.
From there on, it was all Nebraska, as a two-run long ball by junior infielder Spencer Schwellenbach brought the gap to two in the sixth inning. Schwellenbach finished the game 2-for-5 with three runs batted in, including an RBI double in the eighth inning.
However, it was a bases-clearing double off of the bat of freshman infielder Brice Matthews who put the Huskers in front 7-6. It shifted all momentum to the visiting side and broke open the game for a Nebraska offense that was just getting started.
“What an incredibly clutch swing from a guy who’s been fighting a little bit, and no bigger swing than the bases-clearing double,” Bolt said. “He’s an amazing baseball player and he deserves everything that’s coming to him.”
The relentless Husker lineup hit around freshman pitcher Cole Kirschsieper for six runs and gave him the loss on the afternoon. Nebraska senior outfielder Joe Acker continued the scoring with another two-run home run of his own to put Nebraska up 9-6 heading into the final third of the game.
In the eighth inning, Matthews stole home on the throw back to the pitcher to push Nebraska’s lead to 10-7. Acker and Schwellenbach then both contributed RBI hits to extend the Husker lead to 12-7.
Schwellenbach, who dominated in relief Friday night, performed no differently Sunday afternoon when called upon. He went the final two innings of the game for the Huskers as they won 12-7 and improved their season record to 13-5.
Sunday’s win marked the third straight series win for a Husker team that has come into their own in recent weeks. Aside from the rough start from Schanaman, Nebraska performed and delivered in all three aspects of the game.
Nebraska now moves back into first place in the Big Ten standings and have found its identity on the offensive side of the game. After nearly half the season has been played, the Huskers have shown the ability to play and dominate any pitching staff.
Frank and Schwellenbach have emerged as viable options for Bolt out of the bullpen after solid outings from the two today. Going forward, it will be important for the Huskers to find those alternative options for relief outings for later in the season.
“The guys were determined and ready and we gave them our best shot for six innings and that was good enough today,” Bolt said. “Our guys love to win and love each other and I can’t be more proud of how they fought.”
The Huskers will be at home next weekend to take on Maryland in a three-game series with games televised on BTN+. Game one will be on Friday with first pitch set at 6:30 p.m. at Haymarket Park.