A lot happened in a short amount of time Friday night between Nebraska and the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders at Haymarket Park, and all of it occurred before the fourth inning started.
There were three pitching changes. Two players left with injuries. There was a home run. A left fielder had his hat pop off due to the whiplash he got after backing into the left-field wall trying to catch an almost-home run, which landed on the wall’s padding and rolled along it before the hat-less left fielder grabbed it. Jack Steil scored from third after Corpus Christi’s 6-foot-7 pitcher, Tyler Miller, tried to pick off Efry Cervantes at first, but the first baseman didn’t catch it and the ball rolled into foul territory.
It wasn’t Friday the 13th, it was Friday the 18th. But it was still an odd start to the first of a three-game series for the Huskers, who earned their third walk-off win in the last four games, this one a 13-12 come-from-behind victory in a game that lasted just under four hours and ended at 10:36 p.m.
“We’ve seen it three times in one week, I’ve never been a part of anything like that before,” Nebraska head coach Will Bolt said. “We’re making it awful hard on ourselves, but, again, the things we’ve been asking and the things we’ve been looking for is just to fight and compete. That’s the price of admission to play Husker baseball, is to just fight until the last out. These guys are forging an identity, I don’t know if I’m going to last much longer if they’re going to keep doing walk-off wins, but hey, we’ll take the win.”
The Huskers went into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 12-9. Brice Matthews doubled to lead off the inning, then scored from third on a wild pitch. Then with two outs, Cam Chick walked and Colby Gomes came off the bench and reached by getting plunked. That led to Core Jackson’s RBI double to cut the deficit to 12-11:
— Steve Marik (@Steve_Marik) March 19, 2022
That’s when Leighton Banjoff stepped to the plate and delivered the win with a two-run single. He was mugged in center field by his teammates. Banjoff had been hitless in his last 12 at-bats before Friday’s game-winner.
“I was just ready to hit,” Banjoff said after the game. “It’s been a little tough for me, trying to get balls on the barrel recently. But just staying true to my approach, staying on that fastball and just having that great team at-bat there, that’s really what I needed.”
They did it again.
Leighton Banjoff’s walk-off RBI single in the B9 gives the #Huskers a 13-12 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
It’s NU’s third walk-off win in the last four games. pic.twitter.com/1CMnhCg1Je
— Steve Marik (@Steve_Marik) March 19, 2022
Nebraska outhit Corpus Christi 12-11 and committed three errors in the game to the Islanders’ two. Griffin Everitt continued his hot streak by going 3-for-4 at the plate with a home run—his fourth of the week—and four RBIs. He was a single shy of hitting for the cycle and now has a team-high five homers.
Max Anderson and Matthews each recorded two hits. Matthews hit a two-run home run in the sixth, his second homer of the season, that gave the Huskers a 9-6 lead at the time.
While the team celebrated the win, the status of pitcher Kyle Perry loomed over everything. Perry started the game on the bump but never looked right. After giving up a stand-up double and a two-run homer to left field in the first, Perry was visited on the mound by the coaching staff and trainers. After a brief discussion, Perry, who had Tommy John surgery in July of 2020, left for the dugout after 19 pitches and was visibly emotional with his glove covering his face.
“He had a look on his face and he kind of looked in the dugout and said, you know, ‘I just felt weird,'” Bolt said. “I don’t know anything more than that. You just hope for the best.”
A potential injury to Perry would be another blow to the Husker pitching staff which has already lost reliever Jake Bunz for the season. Bunz’s injury came in the second game of the season at Sam Houston.
After Perry left the game, Koty Frank came on in relief and tossed two innings. Four runs were scored while Frank was on the mound, but only one was earned. Freshman Jaxon Jelkin, a freshman from Bellevue West, then came on in relief and pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball. The 6-foot-4 Jelkin struck out five, hit one batter and walked one.
Jelkin did leave the bases loaded with one out in the top of the sixth, but Chandler Benson, freshman from Texas, was able to get out of the jam unscathed with a strikeout and a groundout back to the mound to keep the Islander lead at 6-4.
Benson’s outing was big, because it set up a productive sixth where the Husker offense exploded for five runs with two outs to take a 9-6 lead. Anderson started the rally with an RBI single to cut the Islander’s lead from 6-4 to 6-5. Then Everitt stepped to the plate and smashed a two-run triple to left-center. The final scoring came from the bat of Matthews—the aforementioned two-run home run to right-center to give his team the three-run edge.
But that lead was short-lived. The Islanders scored four runs on only one hit in the seventh. Corpus Christi plated a run off a fielder’s choice, then a Husker error scored another. After an intentional walk to load the bases with one out, pitcher Tyler Martin walked two runs in to put the Nebraska deficit at 10-9. Corpus Christi then tacked on a two-run single in the eighth to get a 12-9 edge after the Huskers struck out once and flied out twice in the seventh.