A crazy 12-inning battle in East Lansing, Michigan saw Nebraska baseball defeat Michigan State 9-6 for the series win. Filled with defensive highlights and a gem from the Spartan bullpen, it was Nebraska’s first game to go at least 12 innings since 2016.
Things got wild early as sophomore pitcher Wyatt Rush found himself in trouble by loading the bases on a hit-by-pitch and two walks. Freshman infielder Max Anderson plated a run on a fielder’s choice, while senior infielder Luke Roskam lined an RBI single resulting in a 2-0 lead.
Rush was pulled after only recording two outs in the first frame and relieved by junior Jesse Heikkinen, who walked in a run as well to put Nebraska up 3-0. He surrendered three more runs in the second inning on an RBI double from junior outfielder Cam Chick and a two-run single courtesy of Anderson.
Nebraska’s 6-0 lead quickly evaporated as junior pitcher Shay Schanaman struggled in his start, loading the bases in the bottom of the second in a similar fashion to how Rush did to open the game. An RBI single by junior infielder Adam Proctor and a two-run single from sophomore outfielder Reese Trahey cut the lead in half.
Michigan State rallied again in the third frame as it tied the game at six after a walk and error made by junior infielder Spencer Schwellenbach allowed two on base. Freshman infielder Trent Farquhar knocked in two on a double and sophomore outfielder Casey Mayes scored him on a sacrifice fly.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in the first innings and let them back in the game after jumping up 6-0,” head coach Will Bolt said postgame. “We weren’t very sharp at all this weekend, but we found ways and ended up with a series win.”
From there, pitching controlled the game as neither offense could muster anything other than a possible scoring threat. Schanaman handed the ball off to junior pitcher Koty Frank in the sixth inning, who gave the Huskers three scoreless frames in relief.
Schanaman finished the game going five innings giving up six runs, five of them earned, while walking four batters. He seemed off from the start and never really settled in as the game went along.
However, after the second inning Michigan State turned to senior pitcher Sam Benschoter who came in and dominated the Husker lineup from top to bottom. He entered the game in the third and immediately got to work, striking out the side in order.
He didn’t stop there as he retired 12 straight batters after giving up a walk to Schwellenbach in the fourth inning. In his first 5.1 innings, he didn’t allow a hit as the Huskers looked completely lost at the plate, similar to yesterday.
Benschoter finished the game going an absurd 9.1 innings out of relief as he ended with a pitch count of 127. He finished the game with 17 strikeouts throughout his appearance as Nebraska couldn’t do anything. Despite such a performance, he ended the game credited with the loss.
Junior infielder Griffin Everitt finally broke through with a double in the eighth with nothing doing for the Huskers. Senior outfielder Joe Acker led things off in the ninth inning with a single, but Nebraska still couldn’t convert, set down on three straight strikeouts.
A great defensive play from Chick in left field to kick off the eighth inning saved extra bases and showed why the Huskers are one of the best fielding teams in the nation.
“My takeaway was how well our defense played and Chick making that diving play in left-center was the best catch I’ve ever seen in person,” Bolt said “I mean that saved the game and just what an amazing play that was.”
Frank only allowed three hits in as many innings as the Spartans struggled to get anything going, keeping the game knotted at six. Schwellenbach delivered a scoreless ninth inning on the mound, and the game headed to extra innings, the first all season for Nebraska.
Anderson kicked off the 10th inning with a leadoff triple, setting up the Huskers to take the lead. Benschoter struck out the next batter and following a single by Everitt, he forced a double play ball to end the top half of the frame.
Both teams went down quietly in the 11th inning as Nebraska got its leadoff runner on for the third straight frame, but failed to score him once again. Michigan State got Proctor on base, who worked a full-count walk and was moved over on a sacrifice bunt.
Sophomore outfielder Zaid Walker singled in the bottom half with Proctor on second base, but he was thrown out at home by senior outfielder Jaxon Hallmark. An outstanding defensive play kept the game alive for the Huskers once again as Schwellenbach ended his day going three shutout innings.
The Huskers finally got a break in the 12th inning as Schwellenbach walked to start, and advanced to third after an errant throw on a steal. Anderson came through again for his fourth RBI of the day and his third hit to give the Huskers a 7-6 lead late.
Junior infielder Efry Cervates then poked a two-run single into the outfield for a 9-6 lead over Michigan State. It was his first base hit since the opening series in Round Rock, Texas, and snapped a 0-for-29 streak.
Schwellenbach came in for his fourth inning of relief and shut down Michigan State in order to secure the series victory on Sunday afternoon. It was the first time the right-hander has thrown over two innings on the mound this season.
“The good news is that we kept setting it up with opportunities and it was good to see us finish it off,” Bolt said. “It was a crazy game and at the end of the day it’s about finding a way to get it done.”
The win gives the Huskers their seventh straight series victory in conference play as they extend their lead to 1.5 games over Michigan in the Big Ten standings. They improve to 20-7 on the season and keep momentum heading back to Lincoln in five days.
Nebraska will return home next weekend to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for a three-game series. Game one will be on Friday at Haymarket Park with first pitch at 6:30 p.m. on BTN+.