The Big Ten Tournament started with eight teams. By Sunday afternoon, there were only two. A few hours later, Ohio State was the last team standing in Omaha after a 3-1 victory over Nebraska.
After throwing over 120 pitches on Wednesday, Matt Waldron got the start on the mound for the Huskers. Waldron was effective in 3.0 innings giving up three hits, one run and three strikeouts.
Ohio State’s starting pitcher was in a similar situation. Griffan Smith threw 110 pitches just three days earlier. Smith was the MVP for the Buckeyes in the championship game, as he went 5.2 innings and 89 pitches holding the Huskers to zero runs. Smith threw just under 200 pitches within four days.
The Buckeyes’ two lefties combined for 10 strikeouts on the day and never allowed the Huskers to find momentum. This also came as Ohio State, the No. 7 seed in the tournament, won back-to-back games on Sunday to win the tournament title. The Buckeyes had defeated Minnesota earlier in the day.
Replay was not available during Big Ten regular season games, but it played a major role throughout the tournament. For example, the Buckeyes extended the lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning after replay reversed a called out at home plate.
Nebraska finally got on the board in the top of the sixth inning with a bases loaded walk to bring the score to 2-1. A very controversial called out in the seventh inning kept the Huskers from tying the game. That was as close as Nebraska would get the rest of the way.
The Huskers only put together four hits in the championship game after a strong tournament at the plate. In the end, Nebraska was unable to string together hits and score runners when they were in position.
With that said, Nebraska fans still showed up in full force again. The total attendance was announced at 17,503, the second largest crowd at a college baseball game this season.
Let’s look at three takeaways from the Big Ten Tournament
Huskers Find Offense
Nebraska collected 41 hits through five tournament games which averages out to 8.2 runs per game. This is a significant improvement from where the Huskers finished in the end of conference play.
Offense came up and down the lineup from multiple Huskers in different games. At a point in the season, Nebraska’s offense consisted of Aaron Palensky, Spencer Schwellenbach and not much else. Now the Huskers have shown that multiple guys are capable of producing for this offense.
Schwellenbach and Angelo Altavilla were previously named to the Big Ten All Tournament Team.
Sea of Red
Like mentioned earlier, Husker Nation showed up and provided energy for this team. The crowds got bigger and better as Nebraska continued to win and really created a great environment.
The semifinal game between Nebraska and Michigan was a night game and the atmosphere was electric. There was no doubt that the team fed off the energy of the crowd after they got going. The championship game was a great showing for Nebraska and the Big Ten conference. If the Huskers would’ve been able to string together some momentum, it would’ve been rocking as well.
The Huskers came into the tournament sitting in a pretty good spot after big wins over Arizona State and Michigan. A win or two in the conference tournament would’ve secured Nebraska a comfortable spot at regionals, so the resume is good right now.
As of Sunday morning, BaseballAmerica.com had Nebraska projected as a No. 2 seed in the Atlanta regional. Most outlets have had the Huskers as a No. 2 seed so this feels like a pretty safe bet right now.
And the team is ready, no matter where they’re seeded or where they’re headed. Joe Acker was confident about the team’s ability to respond after the championship loss.
“This team isn’t going anywhere,” Acker said. “We’re going to get back to Lincoln and rest up and hopefully find out where we are going to go and we’re going to go win a regional.”
Nebraska will officially find out where its headed when the NCAA makes the announcement on Monday morning.