First off, Mojo Hagge made a leaping catch at the left field fence for the final out in Nebraska’s 8-7 victory against Michigan State on the Huskers’ Senior Day at Hawks Field Sunday.
Dramatic catches by Hagge are becoming matter-of-fact.
About the only difference was “not as much hair flying around since he shaved his hair off,” Coach Darin Erstad of the freshman outfielder. “So that’s good.
“But just again, you make plays and you’ve got a chance to win.”
Hagge wasn’t the only Husker who made plays, of course. The previous batter grounded into a double play after Chad Luensmann came on to earn his eighth save.
Luensmann pitched in all three games of the series, not something most relievers do. But “he doesn’t throw any breaking balls. It’s all fastballs basically, so it’s not as much stress on his arm,” said Erstad. “And his pitch count was manageable the first two days.”
Luensmann threw 12 pitches on Friday and 12 pitches on Saturday.
On Sunday, he threw 10 pitches, and his fastball was reaching 95 mph. “He was better than he was the first two days,” Erstad said, “so that’s a credit to the work he puts in.”
Luensmann was Nebraska’s fourth pitcher on the day, beginning with Jake Meyers, who started despite stitches in his left hand. Meyers went 2.2 innings, allowing seven hits including back-to-back home runs by Chad Roskelly and Dan Durkin in a four-run Michigan State third.
“You think how many times he’s picked us up over the course of the season on Sundays, the least we could do is help him out one time from an offensive standpoint,” Erstad said of Meyers.
The Spartans’ Matt Byers, who followed the home runs with a double, also scored in the third inning on a sacrifice fly without a throw by right fielder Scott Schreiber, who lost count of the outs. There were only two. But Schreiber made up for that with a bases-loaded, first-pitch, ground-rule double in a three-run Nebraska fourth to tie the score at 6, then turned what might have been a two-out single into three bases as the Huskers scored twice in the bottom of the sixth.
“That was just kind of instincts there,” Schreiber said. “We’ve got two outs there, so I’m trying to get to second base . . . kind of saw that he (the outfielder) was just kind of jogging to the ball.
“So I figured I’d take a chance and get to second.”
Schreiber never broke stride and rather than stopping at second, continued to third base when Michigan State mishandled the relay throw for an error.
“He went to ‘Little League’ baseball there on a single to left,” said Erstad.
The hit was ruled a double, his second.
“I tell them I’m not going to get mad at them for aggressive plays,” Erstad said.
Five seniors and bullpen catcher Jake Baker were honored before the game. The seniors were Ben Miller, Brady Childs, Derek Burkamper, Alex Raburn and Jake Schleppenbach.
Miller went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs, giving him six for the weekend. Schleppenbach went 4-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Playing his final game at home “was pretty tough, pretty emotional, being a Lincoln kid,” said Schleppenbach, who played his freshman season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College because Pat Kelly was Nebraska’s second baseman. “It’s been a special place for me.
“I just love Husker nation and playing at Haymarket. “
Marty Bechina’s fly ball that Hagge caught to end the game “looked good off the bat,” Schleppenbach said. “I knew it was hit well, but . . . it was pretty low.
“I knew it wasn’t high enough (to go out).”
Nevertheless, Michigan State had 15 hits on the day, and if Hagge hadn’t made the catch, Bechina would have been at second base at least, with the tying run.
“I was just happy it stayed in,” said Schleppenbach.
And that Hagge caught it.
“Mojo just made a great play,” Schleppenbach said. “He’s been doing that all year for us, and he did it again today. That was huge.”
As for his short hair, “I just went back to Omaha one night and I decided to text my aunt and asked her if she could cut it,” said Hagge. “She said she was available. So I decided why not.
“I haven’t regretted it yet, but we’ll see later on.”
It certainly wasn’t bad luck for him or for the Huskers, who are in first place in the Big Ten.
But then, Hagge said, he’s “not real superstitious about the hair.”