Mojo Hagge was in the right place at the right time.
The freshman outfielder, who had been Nebraska’s leadoff batter in 27 of the previous 29 games, was ninth in the order on Sunday, with Jake Schleppenbach eighth.
The Huskers trailed Iowa 6-5, after the Hawkeyes scored two unearned runs in the top of the eighth inning, and Hagge came to bat with two on and two out in the bottom of the inning.
Schleppenbach struck out, swinging at a high fastball, after fouling off three pitches. As he headed back to the dugout, Hagge asked him what the first three pitches had been.
Josh Martsching had just come on in relief for the Hawkeyes.
Schleppenbach said the first three pitches had been “back-foot sliders.” So that’s what Hagge was looking for, and got, when he lashed Martsching’s first pitch into right field. When he quit running, Hagge was at third base and Nebraska had regained the lead at 7-6.
After Jake Meyers was hit by a pitch and Martsching was replaced, Angelo Altavilla singled in Hagge, and all that remained was for Luis Alvarado to pitch a one-hit ninth for his sixth save.
Final score at Hawks Field: Nebraska 8, Iowa 6. The Huskers avoided a sweep.
“With ‘Schlepp’ up there, I was able to get my timing down,” Hagge said. “‘Schlepp’ saw a lot of pitches . . . that’s what you want from any person seeing a pitcher for the first time.”
The hit was the only one Hagge had in 12 official at-bats during the series, which is why he was ninth in the order. He and Altavilla “in Big Ten play haven’t been getting on base at a very high level,” said Coach Darin Erstad. “So just trying to break it up, just throw something new in there.”
First or ninth, it doesn’t matter, Hagge said. “I just want to get in there and get at-bats, do what’s best for the team, and if Coach Erstad saw me in the 9-spot today, then that’s where I needed to be.”
Erstad wasn’t surprised by Hagge’s second triple of the season. “He just seems to be in the middle of the action, so I’m not surprised one bit that he did that,” said Erstad. “He’s obviously not getting as many hits and getting on base as much as he had been earlier but stays with it.”
That describes what Nebraska did on Sunday, stayed with it.
“Coach Erstad told us ‘salvage, salvage the series,’” Hagge said.
The Huskers had a series-high 12 hits, including three from Scott Schreiber and two each from Altavilla and Alvarado, and they overcame three errors.
They led 3-0 after four innings, but Iowa battled back with a run in the fifth and two in the sixth.
“When we had a 3-0 lead with (starter) Jake (Meyers), I think everybody was like, ‘Ah, we’ll be fine,’” said Erstad. “And I think we lost our edge a little bit.”
Nebraska responded to the Hawkeyes’ two-run sixth with two in the bottom on the sixth, when Schleppenbach singled with two outs, driving in Alvarado and Schreiber.
A key play, easily overlooked was a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Alex Raburn.
Hagge made mention of Raburn’s bunt.
“College baseball is a momentum swing at its finest,” Erstad said, “and we just kind of let off the accelerator a little bit there. They started going and got some momentum, and then it turns into a back-and-forth game. We were able to reset and get it going again. It’s not easy to do.”
But the Huskers did it, with the right guys at the right times.
“You never know where you’re at in the lineup where you’re going to need production from, and we got some great production from that bottom (of the order),” said Erstad.
“‘Schlepp had a huge hit, two-out hit, drove in a couple of runs.”
And so did Hagge two innings later.
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.