Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Win Fourth Series in a Row, Hold Half-Game Lead in the Big Ten

April 12, 2021

As was the case the week before against Illinois, Nebraska opened its three-game series against Maryland with a victory on Friday night but lost on Saturday.

The victory was 6-2 behind a 6.2-innings start by Cade Povich, the loss 10-7, after carrying a 5-1 lead into the fifth inning. “If you want to win a conference, you got to win series; you don’t have to win every single game,” Husker senior Jaxon Hallmark, a captain, said after the loss.

“We’ve just got to get back on it and win the series tomorrow.”

Which is what Nebraska did, winning 14-3 to hold onto first place in the Big Ten by a half-game over Michigan, after the Wolverines won two of three against Ohio State in Ann Arbor.

The Huskers are 15-6, Michigan 15-7.

Sunday’s victory, before 3,188 at Hawks Field, wasn’t just a result of offense, however, and it included the drama of Coach Will Bolt being ejected in the seventh inning. “I just saw something that I thought we needed to have our guys’ back,” he said. “That’s all I’ll say.”

Three consecutive Maryland batters had been hit by Husker starter Shay Schanaman, though there was some question in the Nebraska dugout—and among the fans—as to whether the Terrapins were leaning into Schanaman’s pitches. The third came with the bases loaded and forced in a run.

Before the hit batters, Schanaman had dominated, setting Maryland down in order in four innings and striking out 11, without any walks. The Terrapins had two hits, a Chris Alleyne home run in the third and a single to lead off the seventh. Schanaman had hit one other batter, in the second.

“Shay was absolutely ‘dirty,’ ‘filthy,’” said Bolt. “Whatever adjective you want to use, his stuff was that . . . his attitude was very competitive, and he was very determined.”

So were the Husker batters, who had 14 hits against five Maryland pitchers.

Joe Acker had three hits, the same as in Friday’s opener. Nebraska’s lead-off hitter was 7-for-14 with three runs-batted-in and six runs scored over the weekend.

Bolt pointed to Acker’s double, the first of three, to open Friday night’s game as reflecting the Huskers’ approach, with “plays that don’t necessarily show up in the box score,” Bolt said. Acker had two strikes; “then the 11-pitch at bat there from Hallmark absolutely set the tone for the game, moving the runner over and then ‘Schwelly’ (Spencer Schwellenbach) putting the ball in play with two strikes.”

After running up the pitch count on Maryland starter Sean Burke, Hallmark flied to center, allowing Acker to move to third. Schwellenbach then grounded to first, driving in the run.

Brice Matthews hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, after just missing home runs in his first two at-bats. On Sunday, Matthews hit a grand slam and drove in a fifth run with a double.

After starting the season “fine,” said Bolt,  the freshman infielder “had to deal with a little bit of failure and then a little bit of guessing and a little bit of kind of (getting) caught in between at times, maybe doubting himself for the first time in his life.”

But Matthews was 4-for-11 on the weekend, raising his average to .250, with three home runs, 16 runs-batted-in and five stolen bases in five attempts.

“I can tell you this, all of his teammates and coaches have the utmost faith in him,” Bolt said after the Friday opener. “He’s an exceptional talent. He works incredibly hard. He’s an amazing teammate. When he wasn’t playing every day, (he) never missed a beat, right there with his brothers.”

Hallmark leads five Husker hitters over .300, with a .370 average, and is 10-of-13 in steals.

Max Anderson, another freshman, is batting .346 with five home runs and 18 RBIs. Schwellenbach and Roskam are both batting .333. And Acker is batting .329.

Cam Chick is batting .290 with six home runs and 23 RBIs, both team highs.

Povich is 3-1 with a 3.74 ERA, 41 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 33.1 innings. Schanaman is 3-0 with a 5.59 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29 innings.

Sunday’s performance was in dramatic contrast to Schanaman’s start the Sunday before against Illinois, when he gave up five earned runs in 2.2 innings.

The junior right-hander, who had been a reliever until this season, had nothing, really, to say about the hit batters on Sunday. “It’s kind of baseball . . . it is what it is,” he said when asked.

“There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Bolt had his players’ backs, however, adding drama to the lopsided victory.

“You know, it seems like it’s always exciting when the coach gets thrown out,” said Schanaman. But “you don’t want that ever, really. We don’t need any more sparks to get us going.

“It’s just baseball, you know.”

Husker baseball . . .

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