All year long, the motto in the Husker baseball dugout has been, “don’t care.”
Against the No. 1 team in the country with its season on the line, Nebraska embraced what that adage means, battling to live another day after a thrilling 5-3 victory over Arkansas on Sunday night
Packed with 11,000 fans, Baum-Walker Stadium was fired up from the first pitch. The Razorbacks served as the away team, and batted first. Husker junior pitcher Kyle Perry was handed the start and was visibly locked in from the get-go, retiring Arkansas’ first three batters in order.
“We had that fight in us today, that heart to no matter what’s going on around us you have to be ready for the throwdown,” head coach Will Bolt said postgame. “I knew our guys were going to come out and compete today.”
The Millard South graduate was all business Sunday night as he struck out four Arkansas batters through his first two innings of work. He controlled one of the top lineups in the country, a team that’s run roughshod over some of the best pitchers in the nation.
When Arkansas faced Nebraska on Saturday, the Huskers struggled to respond when faced with adversity. However, with nothing to lose on the team’s biggest stage to date, Nebraska punched back. The Huskers grabbed the lead on a solo home run from senior outfielder Jaxon Hallmark in the bottom of first inning, setting the tone for a high-stakes matchup.
“In general that home run just gave us an extra boost in our dugout early,” Bolt said. “It gave us a spark and setting the tone offensively was the difference in the game.”
In the top of the third, Arkansas finally broke through and cashed in on an RBI single from freshman infielder Cayden Wallace. A wild pitch then brought two more runners in and extended the Razorback lead to 3-1.
The Huskers rallied back from being down 3-1 to scratch and claw their way into the contest. A throwing error and a double from senior outfielder Joe Acker put runners on second and third to start the bottom half of the third.
Hallmark then delivered an RBI sacrifice fly to cut the Razorback lead to one. However, base running mistakes derailed the frame, and proved to be a challenge for Nebraska through the middle innings.
Perry finally got in trouble in the fifth inning as he issued a one-out walk and senior infielder Matt Goodheart slapped a single for first and third. Bolt responded by bringing in junior utility Spencer Schwellenbach to pitch, who got Nebraska out of the frame with no damage done. At the plate, the Big Ten Player of the Year then tied the game in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single.
In perhaps the biggest at bat of the game, junior infielder Griffin Everitt crushed a two-run single to the right side of the infield to continue Nebraska’s fifth-inning comeback. Scoring two, Nebraska took the lead back at 5-3 and sucked all the energy out of the Arkansas faithful in attendance.
“Coach Bolt told me to stay on the fastball and I just sat fastball the whole at bat,” Everitt said postgame. “I didn’t let the moment get too big for me, and I just put a good swing on it to give us the lead.”
From that point on it was all Schwellenbach and the dominance he established on the mound. After getting 4.1 innings from Perry, Bolt said he knew that Schwellenbach would be the one to finish the game pitching.
He worked efficiently and effectively for the Huskers, seemingly finding more energy as the game progressed. The right-hander even topped 96 mph on a strikeout to end the eighth inning as Nebraska clung to its two-run lead.
Nebraska’s offense ran stagnant after the fifth inning as it failed to score any more runs, although the Huskers managed 10 hits off a tough pitching staff. Through two games against the Razorbacks, Husker pitching has allowed just nine hits to Arkansas hitters.
“I was running out of gas there towards the end, that was my longest outing of the year and my body was just sore,” Schwellenbach said postgame. “I got through it and that’s all that matters right now.”
Named a team captain by his teammates in the preseason, Schwellenbach got it done for the Huskers both on the mound and at the plate on Sunday night. The team now looks to leadership and the coaching staff for preparation for a winner-take-all game tomorrow.
With the season on the line tomorrow against the top national seed on the road, Bolt has one message for his team.
“The message is we’re just going to keep coming, show up tomorrow and bring it,” Bolt said.
The Huskers will play Arkansas once more Monday night at 6:00 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Super Regional round next weekend.