Nebraska’s weekend series with Minnesota featured two of the top teams in the Big Ten and it did not disappoint. Game 1 included extra innings and the series was ultimately decided in the final inning of play in Game 3.
Once again, weather interfered with Nebraska as conditions were too cold to play on Saturday. Game 2 was then delayed by a day, and the Huskers and Gophers faced off in a doubleheader on Sunday.
In Game 2, Nebraska got off to an early 3-0 lead thanks to a two-run homer from Minnesota native Luke Roskam. By the fourth inning, the Huskers had extended their lead to 6-0. Nebraska already had an 8-1 lead in the top of the ninth when Mojo Hagge recorded his second home run of the weekend.
It was a good offensive performance from the Huskers as they outhit Minnesota 10-4, including two homers, in Game 2. Gunner Hellstrom and Jaxon Hallmark each went two-for-three with an RBI.
On the mound, Nate Fisher got the start and continued his terror to start conference play. Fisher went 8.0 innings and threw 104 pitches including seven strikeouts. His box score was very similar to Mike Waldron’s performance on Friday. Waldron came in to close Game 2 and retired three straight Gophers to seal the 10-1 win for the Huskers.
Game 3 was a completely different story as each team scored two runs in the first inning and the score remained the same until the ninth. Senior pitcher Reece Eddins had his longest outing of the season, going for 7.0 innings. He recorded seven strikeouts and gave up two runs. Freshman Shay Schanaman entered the game in the eighth and took care of business before things got wild in the ninth.
A couple of walks and a passed ball loaded the bases for Minnesota. The Gophers ultimately won in walk-off fashion for the second time this weekend. It came in the bottom of the ninth when a runner scored on a wild pitch. It was a tough way to lose a close game by the score of 3-2, as Minnesota took the series.
Now for three takeaways from the series.
Mojo Home Run Hagge
Hagge only recorded two hits on the weekend, but they were both home runs. His first came on the very first at bat of the weekend and it was a spark for the Huskers in Game 1.
💣 LEADOFF SOLO BOMB 💣
MOJO SENDS A SHOT TO RF.
Huskers lead 1-0. ⚾️🌽 pic.twitter.com/fgtc2LYckw
— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) March 29, 2019
Look for Hagge to gain more confidence as he gets healthy. If Hagge can get consistent behind the plate, the power he has shown will be useful for Nebraska in conference play.
Pitching remains a strength
The Husker starters combined for 23.0 innings, giving up only five runs and three walks. These are some impressive numbers and usually result in wins.
Waldron and Fisher had nearly identical outings, as they both went for 8.0 innings and seven strikeouts. Waldron threw 104 pitches versus Fisher’s 103.
Nebraska used six pitchers on the weekend while Minnesota used nine. Efficiency like this is going to keep the Huskers in most games.
Nebraska outscored Minnesota 14-9 in the series, but unfortunately came up short in the win column. Overall, Nebraska has to be pleased with what they have going forward. Losing in walk-off fashion not once but twice is painful. The Huskers will have to find a way to close out the close games as conference play marches on.
Nebraska has been trying some different things with the batting order as the season unfolds. It will be interesting to see if the Huskers continue to move guys around or if they find a lineup they like.
Right now the offense isn’t coming from one or two guys. It has been different production in each series. This can be a good thing to have the offense spread out, but it can also be sporadic and hard to predict.
Joe Acker and Aaron Palensky are batting well above .300 right now, but after that it is hard to predict who is going to produce. Guys like Luke Roskam and Angelo Altavilla have shown what they are capable of. It will need to be a focus to find some more consistency throughout the order.
Look for the coaching staff to continue to move guys around until they feel comfortable with a consistent approach.