Nebraska (9-4-1) shut out Illinois State, 12-0, in the second game of a three-game weekend series on Saturday.
Despite the resounding victory, the Huskers' 12-game streak of hitting at least one home run — a feat that fell well short of the 1988 program record of 21-straight games — came to an end.
Nebraska head coach Will Bolt gave junior right-handed pitcher Jace Kaminska the nod. Meanwhile, a familiar face in junior shortstop Brice Matthews, who led the team with 16 RBIs and four home runs and ranked second with a batting average of .429 entering the game, batted first for the offense.
Kaminska began the contest with a three up, three down start, retiring the first three Redbird batters with two flyouts and a groundout.
Illinois State freshman right-handed pitcher Tyrelle Chadwick retired the side in response, with two groundouts and a pop out to leave the first inning with zero damage.
The top of the second inning featured more of the same from Kaminska, who retired the next three batters with a pop out, groundout and his first strikeout of the afternoon. His changeup and fastball received greater usage in the inning.
The Huskers’ first base runner came in the form of senior first baseman Charlie Fischer, who tallied a single into right center field, in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore left fielder Gabe Swansen followed with an earned base by virtue of getting hit by a pitch. With runners on first and second base, junior right fielder Cole Evans plated Fischer and advanced Swansen with a line-drive double into left field to take a 1-0 lead.
Nebraska added two more runs with a two-RBI single by senior center fielder Casey Burnham, who advanced to second base with a steal. But he was left stranded as Matthews popped out in the infield.
At the top of the third inning, the Huskers led 3-0 with three hits.
The Redbirds’ first base runner came on account of an error on the throw to the first baseman, as Illinois State freshman second baseman Luke Lawrence reached first base. Kaminska exited the inning, thanks in part to a pop out in foul territory and flyout, neutralizing the threat on first base.
The error between the first and final two outs ended his streak of retiring seven consecutive Redbird batters.
Free bases, as a result of a walk and hit by pitch, placed two runners on first and second base for Nebraska in the bottom of the third inning.
Fischer delivered with an RBI-single, allowing junior designated hitter Ben Columbus to score and advancing sophomore catcher Josh Caron to third. Back-to-back singles into left field by Swansen and Evans added two more runs to maintain the lead, 6-0.
The nightmare of free bases continued for the Redbirds, as freshman third baseman Dylan Carey was hit by a pitch, loading the bases and causing Illinois State head coach Steve Holm to call in junior right-handed pitcher Jayson Hibbard from the bullpen. Hibbard gave up a walk to the first batter he faced for another Husker run, but quickly regrouped with a pop out and groundout to strand three on base as the Redbirds trailed, 7-0.
Kaminska surrendered his first hit of the game in the top of the fourth inning — a single to Illinois State junior third baseman Greg Nichols. The threat of a base runner evaporated as the Redbird infielder was caught attempting to steal second base for the third out of the half inning.
Hibbard retired three-straight batters in a sequence of flyout, strikeout and groundout to keep Nebraska at bay.
Illinois State’s next base hit came in the top of the fifth inning, as Lawrence singled into right field. With two outs and two Redbirds on first and second base, Kaminska flashed leather with some pitcher fielding practice for a 1-3 groundout.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Evans recorded his third hit in his third at-bat with a single into left field, before showcasing his base running and stealing second base. With back-to-back strikeouts, Hibbard finished his second scoreless inning.
Kaminska continued to deal in top of the sixth inning, retiring the side with two groundouts and a flyout.
A sacrifice fly into deep center field by Columbus plated Matthews, who stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch before reaching home plate, and extended the Huskers’ lead to 8-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning. The run was Hibbard’s first earned run of his outing and Nebraska’s first run in three innings.
The second batter in the top of the seventh inning, Illinois State sophomore designated hitter Noah Rabin, tattooed a line-drive single into the right field fence. In a near double-play, Redshirt junior first baseman Shay Kubo reached first base on a fielder’s choice. Illinois State sophomore catcher Nick Strong flied out for the third out, leaving Kubo stranded on first base.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Holm tapped into the bullpen again. This time he called in junior left-handed pitcher Sean Sinisko.
The southpaw’s outing was anything but favorable, as only 11 pitches in, he surrendered a walk, single and two-RBI double off the left field wall. The latter came from Evans, who recorded his second double of the afternoon and the fourth hit in as many plate appearances.
“I’d say I’m feeling good after that one,” Evans said postgame. “Not much to say about that. Good day. Good day at the yard.”
With one out, senior pinch hitter Griffin Everitt sent a deep fly ball into the right field fence for an RBI-triple to score Evans. Everitt then scored on a sacrifice fly by Matthews, for an extension of the Huskers’ lead, 12-0.
In the top of the eighth inning, Kaminska exited the game after seven innings of work with three hits, one walk, two strikeouts and zero runs. In relief came freshman left-handed pitcher Jalen Worthley.
“You know what you’re going to get from Jace, Bolt said postgame. “He’s gonna throw the ball over the plate and he’s gonna have, you know, a good fastball and a good breaking ball going… pretty much every single time out.”
Worthley tallied three strikeouts, while giving up a single and a walk.
For Illinois State, freshman right-handed pitcher Ryan Borberg entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. A groundout, walk, flyout and a strikeout summed up his outing in Nebraska’s final appearance at the plate.
Bolt tapped into the bullpen for another freshman as left-handed pitcher JC Gutierrez came in to relieve in the final inning of the contest. The southpaw finished the game with two walks, a flyout, strikeout and ground out.
The Huskers finished with 12 runs on 10 hits and zero errors, while the Redbirds went scoreless with four hits and zero errors. Kaminska earned the win for his third victory of the season.
Nebraska will return for the series finale against the Redbirds (5-7) on Sunday, March 11.