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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

After Taking 2-of-3 at Illinois, Huskers in First Place of Big Ten

April 05, 2021

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, consider that Cam Chick’s sixth home run of the season in Nebraska’s 12-7 victory at Illinois on Sunday was inside the park.

And the second of Brice Matthews’ two steals was of home plate.

Matthews also had a three-run double to ignite the Huskers’ seven-run sixth inning, the same in which Joe Acker and Spencer Schwellenbach hit two-run home runs.

Schwellenbach then came on to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, allowing only a single, erased by a double-play he started, and striking out three. He pitched the ninth inning of Friday’s 8-6 victory, allowing a double and striking out three to earn his fourth save.

As for Saturday’s game, Nebraska lost 10-8. But the Huskers scrapped in that one, too, rallying for a five-run fifth, which included a Schwellenbach grand slam followed by a solo shot by Chick.

Acker also hit a home run, as did Jack Steil.

The Huskers hit nine home runs over the weekend, bringing their season’s total to 29, second-most in the Big Ten. Northwestern has hit 36.

Despite Saturday’s loss, which snapped a seven-game winning streak, Nebraska shared the Big Ten lead with Michigan at 13-5. (Maryland beat Michigan on Monday, putting Nebraska alone in first place.) Last week’s leader, Indiana, was swept in a four-game series at Ohio State, to increase a Hoosier losing streak to five.

Nebraska’s weekend was offensive, literally not figuratively. The Huskers had 42 hits in the three games; Illinois, which leads the Big Ten in hitting, had 38.

Nebraska’s team batting average is .292, led by Jaxon Hallmark, who was a combined 6-for-13 to raise his average to .382. Max Anderson was 8-for-15 and is hitting .366. Schwellenbach was 6-for-14 and is hitting .353, with 21 runs scored—as a reliever, in addition to the four saves, he has yet to allow a run or a walk while striking out 11 in six appearances, seven innings.

Luke Roskam is also batting over .300, at .341, with a .500 on-base percentage, and Chick is hitting .298, with team-highs in home runs (six) and runs-batted-in.
Eight of Chick’s 21 RBIs came against Illinois.

Acker, who has started every game (as have Schwellenbach and Anderson), is batting .288 and leads the team with 15 walks. He’s among seven Huskers who have hit three or more home runs.

Coach Will Bolt has said he wants his team to be aggressive on the base paths and it was in the three games, with 10 steals in 14 attempts. For the season, Nebraska is 24-of-30, with Hallmark (7-for-10) and Chick (4-for-5) leading the way.

The concern over the weekend, of course, was pitching. Friday starter Cade Povich went 5.1 innings, allowing four runs, three earned, though “he deserved a better fate,” Bolt said during his post-game radio show on the Husker Sports Network. Chance Hroch, Saturday’s starter, allowed five earned runs in 4 innings. And Shay Schanaman, Sunday’s starter, allowed five earned runs in 2.2 innings.

Jake Bunz, Friday’s third pitcher, settled things down and earned the win, then combined with Koty Frank and Schwellenbach in effective relief on Sunday—Frank was credited with the win.

“We always talk about the mental-toughness part of it, and typically what happens is, the tougher team wins on any given day,” Bolt said after the first game.
“And I thought we showed our mental toughness there at the end.”

Credit Illinois with that on Saturday, as it battled back.

On Sunday, it was back to Nebraska.

“Our lineup was relentless from about the fourth inning on,” Bolt said on the Husker Sports Network following the 12-7 victory. “It was good to see some (relief) pitching performances there, and we played clean defense today, which is kind of something we needed to get back to.”

Next up is a three-game weekend series against Maryland at Haymarket Park.

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Tags: Illinois