Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Home Runs Push Huskers to Series Win Over Michigan

April 09, 2023

Nebraska baseball clinched a series win against Michigan on Sunday, taking two of three games from the Wolverines on the road.

The Huskers won the opening and closing games on the weekend, beating Michigan 3-1 in extra innings on Friday and winning 11-3 on Sunday. Between those games came an 8-6 loss.

Home runs were key to the effort. All three Nebraska runs came thanks to two homers in the first game, and the long ball was responsible for the team’s first five runs in the deciding matchup. Brice Matthews and Max Anderson each hit two in the series.

Nebraska’s now won both of its Big Ten series, this one coming against last year’s conference champions. This also followed a win against Kansas State earlier in the week.

“A 3-1 week feels pretty good,” head coach Will Bolt said postgame on Husker Radio Network. “I mean, you win series in a league, you have a chance to win the league and it was a big one.”

Most of Friday’s matchup was dominated by pitchers. Nebraska’s Emmett Olson didn’t allow a hit through the first six innings, only walking two batters in that span. Michigan starter Connor O’Halloran, who holds the best earned run average in the Big Ten, pitched nine innings and shut the Huskers down for the most part. His biggest mistake came earlier on, as Casey Burnham hit a leadoff homer to give Nebraska a 1-0 advantage.

That lead lasted for a while as Olson dominated, but he started to show cracks as the game went on. In the seventh inning, he walked the first batter he faced on four pitches and followed it up by allowing a double. He bounced back, retiring the next three batters to get out of the jam, but Michigan broke through in the eighth inning. Star freshman Jonathan Kim hit a solo homer, and Olson’s still-impressive day was over after striking out the next batter.

Shay Schanaman took the mound to end the inning, and he and O’Halloran both had 1-2-3 innings in the ninth to force extras. Michigan’s ace wouldn’t continue on the mound, having thrown 111 pitches, and Noah Rennard did not match his mound success. With one out, Burnham singled, and Matthews launched a two-run homer to break the tie.

Schanaman allowed a baserunner in the bottom of the 10th on a hit-by-pitch, but earned his fifth strikeout to close out an impressive Husker win.

On Saturday, however, Jace Kaminska struggled for a second straight start. Against Abilene Christian on April 1, the junior gave up four earned runs in four innings pitched, being credited with his first loss of the season. This time, he didn’t make it through the second inning.

Nebraska took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Michigan evened it in the bottom frame thanks to a walk, hit-by-pitch and two hits. That was followed up by a four-run second inning for the Wolverines. They recorded three more hits against Kaminska, the last a two-RBI triple from Kim. A wild pitch allowed Kim to score, and Nebraska made a pitching change to Jackson Brockett.

There wasn’t much drama afterwards. The Huskers scored a run in the fifth and sixth innings to make it a two-run difference, but Michigan regained a four-run advantage by scoring in the bottom sixth and seventh. Nebraska made one last push in the eighth, scoring two runs and loading the bases with two outs before Garrett Anglim struck out looking.

The team could’ve used a better start from Kaminska, but stranding 13 total baserunners didn’t help either.

That all led to the first rubber match of the season on Sunday. Nebraska had struggled to close series out, having failed to capitalize on chances for a sweep against Nicholls and Illinois in March. This game wasn’t promising either early, as Will Walsh allowed two runs in the first inning of his first Sunday start.

But despite the early hole, the Huskers bounced back. Josh Caron led off the second inning with a solo home run. Later in the frame, Dylan Carey and Efry Cervantes singled with two outs, bringing Matthews to the plate. He smacked a homer over the left field wall, giving Nebraska a 4-2 advantage. Anderson’s 11th homer of the year and a sacrifice fly from Gabe Swansen extended it to 6-2 in the third inning.

Walsh was pulled after allowing a home run to start the bottom of the fourth inning, but Bolt gave him credit for staying competitive. The two-way player held Michigan at bay, even getting out of the third inning without any damage after the Wolverines loaded the bases. His Sunday outing was worse than what he had shown in most of his midweek appearances, but it was enough.

The three runs Walsh gave up were all Michigan scored in the deciding game, while the Husker offense kept on rolling. They added five more runs, including three in the sixth inning with two outs. Michael Garza and Jake Bunz held the Wolverines to just four hits in six combined innings pitched.

Nebraska will hope to carry this momentum into next week, where it’ll face Omaha at home on Tuesday before entering a three-game series against Northwestern in Lincoln. Bolt certainly was encouraged by what he saw over the weekend, especially on Sunday.

“I’d say this may be the best game we’ve played all year,” Bolt said. “On the day we may have needed it the most and that’s a good sign. And that’s something that shows what we’re capable of.”

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Tags: Baseball