Huskers Grind Out 3-2 Win Over MSU
At 11,759 strong, the Big Ten tournament’s record crowd was big enough even to give Darin Erstad’s group of grinders raw nerves.
“Maybe the first time in a long time I think I saw our guys a little nervous,” Darin Erstad said after the 3-2 win over Michigan State. “It was probably more than even they were used to handling.”
Starter Aaron Bummer made Erstad the most proud he said as the Huskers overcame a sloppy fifth innings that allowed the Spartans to tie the game at 2-2. Nebraska plated a late go-ahead run in the seventh, and Bummer’s impressive start carried over to Zach Hirsch, who closed the door on the second win of the tournament, advancing the Huskers to Saturday, and one win away from playing in the championship Sunday.
“The one guy I’m most proud of is Aaron Bummer,” Erstad said. “We didn’t play the normal defense we did behind him, and he continued to pound the zone and just do great.”
In the third inning, Steven Reveles led off the third with a double down the third base line and was scored by Ryan Boldt’s RBI double immediately after. Spartan starter Cam Vieaux allowed Jake Placzek to first on a bunt to give the Huskers runners on the corners with no outs, but retired three straight to end Nebraska’s hot streak with just one run to show for it.
Ryan Boldt helped the Huskers scratch out another in the fourth, scoring Tanner Lubach who led off with a deep double off the left field wall. In the bottom of the fourth, Bummer added his third and fourth strikeouts of the night and kept the Spartans scoreless.
Boldt’s night ended with a pair of hits and a team-leading two RBIs. For the sixth time this season, Boldt produced a multi-RBI outing.
The Red Wing, Minn., native called Thursday night’s environment one like he’s never seen before.
“It’s incredible,” Boldt said. “I don’t think I’ve played in front of this big of a crowd ever in my life.”
The nerves turned for Nebraska in the fifth.
Michigan State scored a pair of runs thanks to defensive breakdowns by Nebraska in the fifth, starting with the leadoff hitter reaching on a error. After an RBI single put the Spartans on the board for the first time, Aaron Bummer walked back-to-back batters to load the bases.
“I think everybody’s a little it nervous inside – no one’s willing to admit it,” Bummer said. “But you get those butterflies flying in your stomach and it’s just go time as soon as you hear the first ‘Go Big Red’ chant. It’s unbelievable.”
A sacrifice fly scored the game-tying run, but Bummer was able to stop the flood with a strikeout to retire the side.
“There’s a lot of things we work on called the compounder,” Bummer said. “It’s just one of those things, we have to minimize the miscues that we have, and after we make those miscues, just trying to minimize the damage from there.”
Erstad took a mound visit in the middle of the fifth after a pair of errors – Nebraska finished the night with three. Erstad said he told the team to remember that defense got them to this point, and the lapse of talent was just a fluke. For Bummer, Erstad called it a great growing moment as a person.
“We’ve seen it a few times where the wheels have fallen off,” he said. “That was fun to watch. Everybody was going crazy, and I’m just loving it because seeing him fight through those emotions and have success after doing that; I love that.”
Nebraska broke the tie in the seventh with a pair of doubles from Jake Placzek and Michael Pritchard to take back a one-run lead. From the leadoff spot, Placzek beat a play at second to put himself into scoring position for Pritchard’s double. Placzek said he never out of the box that he was going two.
“I knew I hit it well and it was in the gap and it had a chance when I was coming around first and he hadn’t gotten the ball yet, so I just made the decision,” he said.
Bummer took the Spartans down in order to end the sixth, recording his seventh strikeout of the night to tie a career-high. Zach Hirsch came in for the final two innings, and capped Bummer’s night off with two scoreless frames to secure the win. Bummer’s night ended giving up a pair of runs on four hits, and Hirsch got the save for his two shutout innings.
“When you set up your bullpen, you really want a bridge guy that can match up or he can go two or three innings,” Erstad said. “We’re just so fortunate to have Zach in that role, and it’s huge…Zach’s just been lock down for us.”