Luke Boynton went into Nebraska’s home-opening, weekend series against Columbia with one hit in seven official at-bats, a less-than-impressive .143 average.
By mid-afternoon Sunday, after a 12-5 Husker victory, the freshman from Marietta, Georgia, was hitting .421 with his first three collegiate runs-batted-in.
Because of his success, including 3-for-5 and the three RBIs on Sunday, Boynton was requested for a post-game media interview. It was his first-time answering group questions.
“Not too nervous,” he said, “just a little a bit.”
He repeated “a little bit.”
Boynton’s play—his performance at first base in Sunday’s wind also drew praise from Coach Will Bolt—was among several positives over the weekend, which saw Nebraska win three-of-four from the Ivy League visitors. A 3-2 loss to the previously winless Lions in the second game of a Saturday double-header was the most notable negative. But the Huskers came back strong.
“We had a disappointing end to the day yesterday,” Bolt said, crediting Columbia. “Our guys needed to respond. Putting up a three-spot, scoring early in that (Sunday’s) game after we’d kind of gotten off to some slow starts, I think that kind of helps guys settle in.”
Cam Chick, who was 5-for-16 on the weekend, accounted for the three-spot in the first inning, following walks to Leighton Banjoff and Aaron Palensky with a home run.
Luke Roskam hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning, and Nebraska never looked back.
The two home runs “were both opposite field,” said Bolt. “We’re staying behind the ball better, not trying to go get the ball. I thought we were more disciplined, too.”
That Chick’s home run followed back-to-back walks was a positive.
“There’s a fine line between being too passive and too aggressive,” Bolt said. “We, at times, kind of fall into both categories, so today I thought was a good combination of being ready to hit and taking what the pitcher gave us.”
Nebraska had 15 hits on Sunday, after getting 25 in the first three games.
The Huskers’ first four-game series put some pressure on a pitching staff without regular Friday starter Gareth Stroh. Sophomore left-hander Kyle Perry stepped into the Friday slot—his first start this season after three in relief—and responded by allowing one run on two hits, with no walks and seven strikeouts, in five innings to earn the victory.
Max Schreiber and Paul Tillotson finished the game, combining to strike out nine without a walk. Schreiber allowed four hits and one earned run in three innings.
Tillotson earned the save with a perfect ninth, including two strikeouts.
Tillotson also pitched one perfect inning in Saturday’s loss, while Schreiber finished Sunday’s game, seven up and seven down to earn the save.
“That’s kind of why we don’t have him in a starting role right now,” said Bolt, “because he’s one of those guys that’s stretched out to start, and we feel like he can get through a lineup, maybe a couple of times. But (in) situations like this, this weekend, we were running low on arms.”
So the Huskers needed him to finish.
Schreiber was among seven pitchers Nebraska used on Sunday, beginning with Caleb Feekin.
“We knew it was all-hands-on-deck today,” Bolt said.
Feekin isn’t stretched out to start, so “we sent the whole bullpen down early in the game, knowing that we’re going to use pretty much everybody,” said Bolt.
Despite Saturday’s loss, after 5-3 and 7-3 victories, “the team’s confidence is sky-high, definitely,” Boynton said. “We believe that we can compete with everyone, and anyone, on any given day. We just need to come out with the right mindset every single day.”
Nebraska (5-8) went into the series having salvaged the last game of a three-game series at Arizona State, and “felt like coming home, we just needed to play good baseball,” said Bolt. “And, you know, getting a series win here is a good start to the homestand . . . we need to finish this thing off.”
The Huskers are scheduled to play host to Northern Colorado on Tuesday and Wednesday, before traveling to Wichita State for a four-game weekend series.
“I know it’s a cliché, but we literally just need to show up and focus on that game, that day, and not worry about what our record is,” Bolt said, “just compete as hard as we can on that day.”
As for the starting pitchers for the season’s first mid-week games?
“No idea, no clue. If you have any suggestions, I’d like ‘em,” said Bolt.
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.