What a difference a day makes. That’s how baseball can be.
On Friday night, Nebraska’s pitchers gave up 21 hits and the Husker hitters struck out 12 times in a 15-6 loss to Arizona State. On Saturday afternoon, Nebraska’s pitchers gave up eight hits and struck out 14, while the hitters produced just enough for a 2-1 victory at Hawks Field.
“After yesterday, it’s very easy to shy away from competition,” Nebraska Coach Darin Erstad said. “Our guys didn’t do that. They came out to fight.”
Oh yes, and to play defense.
Exhibit A was Mojo Hagge’s catch in left field for the second out in the ninth inning. Hagge slammed into the wall as he secured the ball off the bat of Drew Swift. Arizona State’s baserunner, Myles Denson, had left first base and rounded second, anticipating he might be able to score the tying run.
Denson had to retouch second and hustle to first to avoid the double play.
Hagge “saved my life,” said Husker closer Colby Gomes. “That was absolutely terrifying. I’ve given up enough of those. When Mojo made that play, I knew I couldn’t mess it up for the guys.”
Gomes, who earned his 10th save, then struck out Trevor Hauver to end the game. He was Nebraska’s third pitcher. Nate Fisher started and went 5.1 innings to earn the victory. He’s now 5-3. Robbie Palkert came to his rescue with two on, one out and one in––on Spencer Torkelson’s home run.
Gomes drove in what proved to be the winning run with a one-out single in the fourth. Luke Roskam drove in Hagge for the Huskers’ first run with two-out in the previous inning after Arizona State made a curious decision and intentionally walked Aaron Palensky.
Hagge had singled and stole second base.
Sun Devil pitcher Boyd Vander Kool throws right-handed and Palensky bats from the right side, while Roskam bats from the left. “That was kind of against the grain match-up wise,” said Erstad.
Roskam “was ready to hit,” Erstad said.
Nebraska was error-free defensively, and the ninth-inning catch wasn’t Hagge’s only highlight play. He made a diving catch in center field in the fifth inning with runners at first and second and only one out. “He’s not afraid to make those plays,” Erstad said.
The runners at first and second were on with the only walks Fisher issued. He struck out seven and allowed six of Arizona State’s eight hits, the home run the only one for extra bases.
“Fisher’s Fisher,” said Gomes. “He’s just a dog. He’s a dog out there on the mound.”
The image was appropriate for this particular afternoon. The game was promoted as “Bark in the Park,” and some in a crowd of 5,403 had brought their dogs.
An on-going Nebraska promotion is to toss Husker T-shirts into the stands during innings in which Nebraska’s pitchers record strikeouts. So those tosses matched the barking of the dogs.
The atmosphere was much different than Friday night’s. That’s how baseball can be.
The teams wrap up the non-conference series on Sunday, first pitch slated for 1:05 p.m. Nebraska improves to 25-19, while Arizona State drops to 35-13.
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.