OKLAHOMA CITY — Colby Gomes came in and hit 97 on the gun.
“He hasn’t backed down from one moment,” head coach Darin Erstad said of the freshman reliever. “When he’s throwing 97 miles an hour, he’s not backing down, he’s going with his best stuff.”
When leading after eight innings this year, the Huskers were 29-0. Gomes had 13 saves heading into Saturday night. He hadn’t given up a home run at all this season, had allowed just four hits since the start of May and one earned run since February.
With a spot in the Oklahoma City Regional final on the line — and most likely one foot in a super regional — Nebraska led Oklahoma State 5-0 after five innings and 5-2 going into the ninth.
Senior pitcher Matt Waldron got the start on the mound for the Big Red and pummeled the Cowboys all evening. He set a new career-high with 11 strikeouts and went 7.2 innings without giving anything easy. Freshman Shay Schanaman replaced Waldron with one out to go in the eighth and struck out his only batter faced.
Gomes was the closer. Like always.
“(Waldron) was just starting to get up in the zone a little bit with his off-speed stuff,” Erstad said. At 124 pitches, Waldron didn’t feel fatigue, just that he was starting to miss his spots. “We got in a situation there where we like Shay’s breaking ball and he got it done and it lined up how we’ve always won our games,” Erstad added.
“Baseball gods were not on our side tonight.”
One inning away from 2-0. One inning away from rest. Gomes entered to start the ninth and drew a groundout up the middle. But he walked the next batter in a six-pitch at-bat. A single in the next at-bat put men on first and second and the tying run at the plate. Then a sac-fly put runners on the corners with two outs. Gomes kept pounding his fastball.
An RBI single cut the lead to two. The go-ahead run was at the plate. Gomes kept pounding his fastball.
Center fielder Trevor Boone, sitting on 19 home runs for the Cowboys on the season, stepped to the plate and tattooed a first-pitch fastball over the left-field wall. Six-five Oklahoma State.
Nebraska went quietly in the bottom of the ninth.
“Baseball’s a cruel game,” Erstad said.
One inning away.
“With this team, you have got to get to certain areas of the plate and stay away from certain areas,” Erstad said. “A couple balls ran into the wrong areas. That’s why Matt was so effective, he was able to hit those spots.”
Pitching certainly wasn’t the sole culprit for the Husker loss. After five runs in the first three innings, 19 of Nebraska’s final 20 batters were sat down. This one could linger.
Instead of staying in the winners bracket, Nebraska will face UConn in a rematch Sunday at noon, almost exactly 12 hours after Saturday’s loss ended. It’ll be an incredibly short turnaround after rain delayed Saturday’s first pitch by an hour-and-a-half. If the Huskers were to win that, they’d have to play again at 5 p.m. CT. It’s not ideal, and Erstad said he hadn’t even thought about who would pitch Sunday or what the schedule was going to be like.
The Huskers were going to go back to the hotel, sleep, and get ready for the Huskies.
“It’s do or die for us,” senior third baseman Angelo Altavilla said. “That’s all we really need to tell the guys. I do not want it to be my last game tomorrow. Not at all.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.