While Nebraska baseball did what it needed to do to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament by beating the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday in a must-win at Haymarket Park, the Huskers still won’t be competing at the conference tournament in Omaha.
Though Nebraska beat the Spartans on Friday and Saturday to win the series 2-1, it still needed help from Maryland to qualify for the tournament. The Terps, the regular-season Big Ten champs and the No. 1 seed of the tournament, were in West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend for a series with the Purdue Boilermakers. In order for the Huskers to make the tournament and overtake Purdue in the standings, they needed to win and a Boilermakers loss.
Maryland and Purdue never played, though, as the game was called due to weather, so the Boilermakers made the tournament and will be the No. 7 seed while Indiana is the No. 8.
Nebraska ends its season with a 23-30 overall record and a 10-14 mark in the Big Ten.
The Huskers defeated Michigan State 10-9 on Saturday and outhit the Spartans 15-12. Big Red’s offense came alive in its final game and batted .441 at the plate and .462 with two outs.
The Huskers hit four home runs in the win, two of which came from the bat of last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Max Anderson. Anderson, a Millard West grad who went 4-of-5 at the plate in the win, ended his sophomore campaign with a team-leading 10 longballs. Griffin Everitt and Leighton Banjoff both went yard as well.
It was Anderson’s three-run home run in the bottom of the first that turned a 2-0 Husker deficit into a 3-2 lead. Nebraska stretched its lead to 6-3 in the fourth thanks to Everitt’s two-out, three-run home run off Michigan State freshman righty Ryan Szczepaniak. After a scoreless top of the fifth from reliever Braxton Bragg, the Husker offense rattled off three consecutive singles from Brice Matthews, Luke Jessen and Efry Cervantes in the bottom of the frame. Cervantes’ knock was an RBI that scored Matthews while Cam Chick connected on a sacrifice fly to center to bring in another run.
Nebraska went into the top of the ninth with a 10-4 lead. After an RBI single from Zach Iverson made the Husker lead 10-5, Michigan State made things really interesting by scoring four runs with one swing of the bat. Trent Farquhar hit a grand slam off reliever Chandler Benson to turn the potential blowout into a one-run game.
Benson responded with a strikeout before freshman CJ Hood entered the game to finish off the Spartans. Hood, a 6-foot-4 right-hander from nearby Norris High School, forced a pop out and strikeout to end the game and seal the win.
Mason Ornelas, a transfer from Texas A&M, started the game for Nebraska and lasted four innings. He gave up three runs and three hits while striking out two with two walks. Bragg was good, throwing 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball while giving up three hits with two strikeouts. Corbin Hawkins, Benson and Hood all saw action on the mound as well.