Mojo Hagge went 0-for-4 at-bat in Nebraska’s 8-5 victory against Rutgers at Hawks Field on Friday night, though the freshman right fielder did score a run.
But that’s not the reason 6-foot-2, 229-pound Jake Hohensee, the Huskers’ starting pitcher, gave the 5-7, 178-pound Hagge a bear hug in the dugout following the third out in the top of the seventh inning.
“I was fired up,” said Hohensee, who earned the victory, his sixth in eight decisions. “He’s a grinder out in the outfield. I love him in the outfield. He catches everything.”
The situation was this. Rutgers had scored three runs to cut the deficit to 8-4. The Scarlet Knights had runners at first and second with two outs. Robbie Palkert had replaced Hohensee following a third walk and his 114th pitch. Jawuan Harris, No. 5 in the order, was at-bat.
On a 2-0 count, Harris drove the ball to deep right center, where Hagge gave chase, lunging near the fence. Let shortstop Angelo Altavilla describe what happened next. Hagge “kind of did a backflip or whatever that was and smashed his head against the wall,” Altavilla said.
Then Hagge raised his glove, which contained the ball.
“That might have been the web gem of the year so far,” said Altavilla.
It ended the Rutgers rally and reflected how Nebraska improved to 27-16-1 overall and 10-5-1 in the Big Ten. “You make plays, you have a chance to win,” Coach Darin Erstad said.
Hagge’s web gem was among a handful of defensive plays Erstad mentioned afterward, including Hagge’s running down “a little blooper” for the third out in the top of the eighth inning and a diving stop and throw to first by second baseman Jake Schleppenbach for the first out in the top of the ninth, with a runner advancing to second and scoring one out later.
Even the final out wasn’t routine. Brison Cronenbold, who had entered the game in the eighth at shortstop with Altavilla moving to third base, made a “nice running play,” said Erstad.
Again, make plays and you give yourself a chance to win.
Eleven hits, including home runs by Luke Roskam and Scott Schreiber and a two-run triple by Altavilla, also gave Nebraska a chance, as well as a pitching performance by Hohensee that was deceptive on the face of it. Hohensee allowed 10 hits and four earned runs in 6.2 innings. But he also struck out a career-high 10. “He was sharp. I thought he was really solid,” Erstad said.
“He just ran out of gas in that last inning.”
Hohensee was freezing the Scarlet Knights with a slider that wasn’t working during his pre-game warm-up. “First inning, it wasn’t there,” said Hohensee. Second inning, it was. “That’s when it occurred to me and (pitching) Coach (Ted ) Silva . . . and we decided to stick with it.”
His curveball “was about 60 miles an hour today. I didn’t throw it that much,” Hohensee said. “That was my go-to, my slider. I could throw it any count. It was good.”
His change-up “was working a little bit, so it kind of kept them off-balance,” he said.
The Huskers showed the effects of the university’s final-exam week, said Erstad, “no doubt about it. I don’t know if ‘daze’ is the best word. They’re . . . just out of their routine. They’re mentally tired. It had a different vibe. You could just tell everything wasn’t as sharp. But again, you found a way.”
That way included defense like Hagge’s catch.
Nebraska and Rutgers, 17-26 overall and 5-8 in the Big Ten, play the second of a three-game series on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. Derek Burkamper (3-4, 3.92) is set to pitch for the Huskers, against sophomore right-hander Serafino Brito (3-7, 4.63).
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.