Jake Meyers described the play as “unbelievable.” Darin Erstad said it was among the best he’d ever seen second baseman Jake Schleppenbach make, “a huge play by ‘Schlepp,’ just fantastic.”
The play occurred with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the second inning of Nebraska’s 6-2 victory against College of Charleston at Hawks Field at Haymarket Park on Sunday. The game was scoreless. But Meyers, the Huskers’ starting pitcher, was in a jam.
With a one-strike count, College of Charleston’s Luke Morgan hit a line drive headed to right. Schleppenbach leaped, made the catch and threw to shortstop Angelo Altavilla covering second to double-up the runner who had headed for third. Inning over.
“That tips off his glove that’s two runs for sure, and who knows how that game goes,” said Erstad. “So you’ve got to make plays to win, and we made plays.”
As it did in Friday and Saturday victories against College of Charleston, Nebraska made plays in the field as well as at bat, this time scoring six runs on six hits, six walks and one error.
Altavilla and Mojo Hagge each drove in two runs as the Huskers improved to 9-8 with a fourth consecutive victory. They’ll play five games in California this week, beginning at CSU-Bakersfield on Tuesday night, followed by a four-game series at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, with single games on Thursday and Friday and a double-header on Saturday.
Meyers pitched six innings, increasing his scoreless streak to 21.2, to earn his third victory, against one loss, and drop his earned-run-average to 1.54. He allowed four hits, struck out three, walked one and hit one batter. He threw 87 pitches, including 58 for strikes. “With a short week, we wanted to get him out of there and make sure he’s ready to go for his next start,” Erstad said.
Meyers “was up in the zone a little bit early and they smashed some balls,” said Erstad.
But the junior left-hander battled and relied on those behind him, including Schleppenbach.
“Oh yeah, ‘Schlepp’ was there for me all day,” Meyers said. “To have a guy like that behind me just gives me a lot of confidence to throw strikes. That’s a huge relief having guys like that behind me. He puts it on the line every day. I love playing with him.”
Schleppenbach has struggled at bat – his average is .188. But he’s learned how to separate what he does batting and what he does fielding, something he didn’t do in high school.
“If you ask my high school coach, he’d probably say I did a very poor job of that,” said the senior from Lincoln. “It’s something I like to hang my hat on and just try not to take at-bats onto the field and just always play solid defense. I think that’s the big reason I’m in the lineup, for my glove. And I just take pride in it and try to help our pitchers out as much as I can.”
Schleppenbach has yet to commit an error in 77 chances.
“He’s just amazing,” Erstad said. “He just makes so many plays look very easy.”
Like the catch that initiated the first of three Husker double plays on Sunday.
“It’s just an attitude and effort thing,” said Schleppenbach. “You can always play great defense. That’s the key, attitude and effort.”
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.