A pitchers’ duel broke out at Haymarket Park in Lincoln Thursday night between Nebraska and the BYU Cougars, a West Coast Conference program that’s in town for a four-game series.
It was a duel that Nebraska won, 1-0, behind a stellar outing from Nebraska pitchers Koty Frank, Tyler Martin and Braxton Bragg, who combined to 1-hit the Cougars. It was the first time since the Huskers’ 2-0 win at Baylor in March 2019 that Big Red held an opponent to a single hit.
Frank, who wasn’t available to start last week due to precautionary reasons, was back on the mound for the Huskers. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound transfer from Eastern Oklahoma State Community College retired his first 10 batters before plunking Ozzie Pratt in the fourth. Pratt, however, wound up never hurting Frank, who went on to pitch 6.2 innings of scoreless baseball and throw 88 pitches.
The only hit Frank gave up was a single to right field in the seventh. The Tushka, Oklahoma, native struck out seven batters and didn’t issue a walk. After allowing the single, head coach Will Bolt came out to get the right-hander, who left with two outs in the seventh and got a standing ovation from the Haymarket crowd.
“He was masterful,” Bolt said after the game.
Frank said his primary pitches were the fastball and changeup, which was what his pitching coach, Jeff Christy, told him to go with Thursday. Limiting his array of pitches worked for Frank.
“It just kind of heightens your emphasis on that one pitch, like, hey, if I’m going to be throwing this pitch, I have to have it going,” Frank said.
Before taking the mound on Thursday, Frank reflected on previous outings and realized that he was almost pitching too conservatively. So, he made a change and found success.
“I’m a starter, I’m supposed to go deep in the game, I’m going to try to save a little in the tank so I can go deep, and it wasn’t making my stuff as sharp,” Frank said of what he was thinking earlier this season. “So tonight, my big emphasis was let it rip, pitch to pitch. It could be my last pitch, I could get pulled, but I’m just going to go one pitch at a time.”
Bolt, who said he was expected around 70 pitches from Frank, noticed his starter’s quick tempo on the mound. When pitchers are getting the ball and going to work, that’s usually when good things happen.
Frank got in a groove early and capitalized.
“You’ve seen the ones who’ve done that and worked with tempo have had success,” Bolt said. “The fastball, the velocity is better than we’ve seen in a while from him (Frank). Again, that’s surprising just from everything over the last week or so. But the fastball had great finish over the bottom of the zone. The changeup looked exactly the same coming out of his hand, and he was incredible.
“To get that far in the game, I would’ve never guessed it before he started.”
BYU’s starter, the 6-5, 225-pound sophomore Jack Sterner, also threw 6.2 innings and didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth when he walked Griffin Everitt on four straight pitches. Sterner didn’t give up a hit until Garrett Anglim’s leadoff single to right in the seventh. Sterner’s final line: three hits, one earned run, seven strikeouts and one walk on 91 pitches.
After Anglim’s single, BYU turned a Max Anderson grounder into a double play. The Huskers’ bats continued to find success against Sterner, though, as Everitt hit a two-out double down the right-field line. Shortly after, Nick Wimmers, a fellow Eastern Oklahoma State Community College Mountaineer and Nebraska’s designated hitter, gave the Huskers a 1-0 lead with a two-out RBI single to left.
“Wimmers made an adjustment within his at-bat,” Bolt said of the game-winning hit. “They were attacking him with fastballs the first couple at-bats, he got in front of some changeups, but he didn’t slow his bat down. He didn’t just put the ball in play with less than two strikes. He was ready to hit, then made the adjustment on the change and stayed behind it. Honestly, that’s kind of what we’ve seen from Wimmers. That’s what’s got him in the lineup.
“We need a guy that’s able to do that, and that was the difference tonight.”
Nebraska finished with three hits on the night, one each from Anglim, Everitt and Wimnmers.
Martin came in relief of Frank and did his job. After hitting his first batter he faced, Martin sat down his next four to keep the Cougars scoreless. Martin threw 1.1 scoreless innings and struck out one batter. Bragg came on to seal the win in the ninth, getting a strikeout looking while forcing a flyout and lineout.
There was a string of 19 batters retired before Pratt reached. He wound up stealing second with two outs, but Frank forced a groundout from Jacob Wilk to keep the game a scoreless tie.
Anderson made a couple spectacular plays at third to keep Frank’s no-hit bid alive in the fifth. First, Anderson gloved a tricky grounder and threw out the batter. Shortly after that, Anderson, last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, made a diving stop on another hard-hit grounder and quickly got to his feet and gunned down the batter for the second out:
Max flashing the leather at the hot corner 👏 pic.twitter.com/5F85mLOrJp
— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) April 15, 2022
After Everitt became the Huskers’ first base runner in the fifth, a sacrifice bunt from Wimmers moved Everitt to second. The Huskers couldn’t score their runner in scoring position, though, as both Brice Matthews and Core Jackson struck out swinging for Sterner’s fifth and sixth strikeouts of the night.
The two teams will play a doubleheader on Friday. The first game will be seven innings and start at 2 p.m. while the second will go nine innings and begin around 5:30 p.m.
Nebraska improves to 13-18 on the season while BYU drops to 17-13.