Back on March 9 in a chilly and snow-covered Manhattan, Kansas, the Kansas State Wildcats beat Nebraska 6-4 in midweek action. The two teams met again on Tuesday night, this time on a pleasant night in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Husker returned the favor.
Behind a 3-of-5 outing at the plate with four RBIs from last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Max Anderson, and a strong performance on the mound from reliever Mason Ornelas, the Huskers defended their home diamond at Haymarket Park with an 8-6 win.
The Huskers were aggressive to start and took a 2-0 lead on a two-run single to left field from Anderson in the bottom of the first. They stole six bases in the inning—that was a season-high for an entire game this season—and ended with seven. Kansas State’s starting pitcher, Wesley Moore, had a slow delivery to home plate and the Huskers wanted to take advantage.
“That was the game plan and it was nice to see us execute it,” Nebraska head coach Will Bolt said after the game.
Offensively the Husker bats outhit the Wildcats 8-5. The fifth inning was an important one for Nebraska—it scored five runs and turned a 4-2 deficit into a 7-5 lead.
Core Jackson and Cam Chick both hit RBI triples to tie the game while Garrett Anglim gave Big Red a 5-4 edge with an RBI groundout. Anderson then stepped to the plate and blasted a two-out, two-run home run that gave Nebraska a 7-4 edge. That longball was Anderson’s fifth of the season.
“Those two triples were huge, but Garrett getting to two strikes and hitting a chopper with the infield in, and Chick scoring, he beat the play. If they had gone to the plate he would have been safe,” Bolt said. “It was little things like that—that’s why they call it a game of inches, because little stuff like that is huge. If you don’t move the ball right there, then who knows what’s going to happen.
“Huge answer by the offense.”
Nebraska got 3.1 innings from starting pitcher Jackson Brockett, who struck out three and walked three while allowing three hits and two earned runs. After CJ Hood earned two outs in relief, Mason Ornelas came on to throw 3.2 innings and kept the Wildcat offense at bay.
Ornelas, a Texas A&M transfer, gave up a two-run home run in the fifth that cut the Husker lead to 7-6, but he went on a tear after that and retired his next 10 batters to help preserve the one-run lead before his night ended with a single from Justin Mitchell in the eighth. Shay Schanaman came on to face one batter and forced a groundout before Braxton Bragg sat down his three batters in order in the ninth to seal the win.
Bolt said he didn’t even write Schanaman’s name down as an available player on the lineup card, but wanted to keep his weekend starter in a routine.
“We did have a conversation with him (Schanaman) early,” Bolt said. “It was his bullpen day today. I wanted it to be a really short outing, and that was exactly what we needed there. Mo (Ornelas) got it to 60 pitches and we just needed Shay for one, and Bragg probably only had one inning in him tonight, so it was scripted perfectly and it’s nice when it works out that way.”
Gabe Swansen gave the Huskers an insurance run in the sixth with a two-out single to center that wound up being the final score of the game. Nebraska hit 3-of-13 with runners in scoring position.
Efry Cervantes’ defensive play at third base was something that kept Kansas State’s offense from scoring more runs, too. He had three great snags that kept the Wildcats from plating more runs.
“Man, he saved us defensively,” Bolt said.