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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Baseball Falls Short in 4-2 Loss to Maryland, Ending Big Ten Tournament Run

May 27, 2023

Max Anderson’s final swing had a chance.

Despite being shut out for eight innings, Nebraska brought its best hitter to the plate in the ninth, representing the winning run with two runners on and two outs. Much of the lineup had already done their job, drawing walks and coming up with clutch swings to cut a 4-0 deficit down to 4-2.

Given the situation, there was no better way to line things up than Anderson — one of the best hitters in the nation and the team leader in homers — having the next at-bat. And there was no better sound for the Huskers to hear than the one from his swing, which sent the ball to deep right field.

As the ball soared through the air, Maryland right fielder Matt Woods made his way to the wall, tracking the ball right in front of his team’s bullpen fence. It was clear that it was going to be close. If the swing cleared the fence, it’d be a 5-4 walk-off victory for Nebraska, improbably keeping its season alive and forcing another matchup with the Terrapins an hour later.

Anderson didn’t know if the ball would make its way out, he said postgame. Maryland centerfielder Elijah Lambros thought the same, and many others surely did as well.

“[Anderson] crushed that ball,” head coach Will Bolt said postgame. “He killed it… that looked a lot like a lot of his home runs this year.”

This one, however, fell just short.

Woods caught the ball with relative ease, sending his team to the conference tournament championship game and eliminating Nebraska. Without a strong enough RPI ranking for an at-large NCAA regional bid, the Huskers’ season ended there as well.

It was a year of improvement for Nebraska after finishing last season below .500 and missing the conference tournament altogether. Still, this was a team with expectations higher than what the results ended up being.

“I’m gonna look back on this year as a year where we took a good step,” Bolt said. “But also knowing that we left some on the table.”

Most of Maryland’s scoring came early on in Saturday’s contest, as Jackson Brockett put out a worse start than the Huskers had in their three previous games of the tournament. He escaped the first inning unharmed despite walking two batters, but Maryland started the second inning with five consecutive hits. This wasn’t all the pitcher’s fault — after the first two hits, the Terrapins came up with back-to-back bunt singles, aided by miscommunications in the Husker infield. The first of those bunts was an RBI, and a two-run single capped off the hit streak.

Brockett’s day ended after getting out of the second inning down 3-0. The bullpen did much better after that, only giving up one more run on a fifth-inning solo homer. Shay Schanaman entered early in the sixth inning, and finished the game without allowing a hit and issuing just one walk. Before Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn’s postgame availability started, he asked for assurance that the fifth-year pitcher was graduating.

But Vaughn got great work from his pitching staff as well, just two days after holding Nebraska to one run in a walk-off win. Jason Savacool went six innings, allowing four hits and striking out six. The Huskers did get at least one runner on base in each of the last seven innings, but the Terrapin starter consistently kept them from scoring.

Savacool’s last inning was Nebraska’s best chance to that point. Brice Matthews drew a leadoff walk, and Anderson followed with a single. That was the first time the team had put two runners on in an inning all game, and the first time having a runner on with no outs. However, Gabe Swansen grounded into a double play soon after. Charlie Fischer walked to put runners on the corners, but a Ben Columbus flyout ensured that it didn’t matter.

Maryland pitcher Kenny Lippman served on the mound for the next two innings, walking a pair but still keeping Nebraska scoreless. The Terrapins made another change, though, heading into the bottom of the ninth. Lippman exited, and Nigel Belgrave came in.

Belgrave walked the first Husker he faced on five pitches. It took six pitches to give the next a free pass. He was left in, and the four pitches he threw to Garrett Anglim were all balls. The redshirt sophomore had walked the bases loaded without recording a single out. Suddenly, Nebraska had the tying run at the plate.

Understandably, Maryland made one more change. Andrew Johnson, the next pitcher, also had some control struggles, putting Cole Evans up 3-0 in the count. Johnson started throwing strikes after that, but the last pitch was hit by Evans for a single. One run scored. Johnson struck out a pinch-hitting Griffin Everitt, which was a disappointing result, but the top of the lineup was up next.

Matthews sent the first pitch he received into right-center field for a routine fly ball. Lambros and Woods rushed toward it, and neither stopped rushing toward it. The two collided, with Woods somehow holding on. A run scored on the sacrifice fly.

Postgame, Lambros said the crowd — energized by the string of walks — was too loud for him to hear his fellow outfielder.

Even as outs were recorded, Nebraska was gaining momentum. That all led to Anderson’s final swing. Given the situation late, Bolt said he wouldn’t have wanted his team to do anything different.

“We did everything we could to get back in that game in that ninth inning,” Bolt said. “We had our guys at the plate, and that’s baseball.”

The press conference included three players that are expected to have played their last games at Nebraska. Schanaman did indeed graduate, while Anderson are Matthews are set to be high MLB draft picks. They said the postgame dugout mostly consisted of hugs and goodbyes.

“It might be some of our last time playing with each other,” Matthews said. “Some guys are moving on, some guys aren’t coming back. So just saying our goodbyes, our thank yous, like we love each other and we just try to put it all on the line for each other right there.”

The head coach mentioned that every team but the national champion will go through a heartbreaking, season-ending loss each year, but also acknowledged the difficulty of these moments. He’ll be tasked with improving the team throughout the offseason before trying to find more success in 2024.

“It’s not easy to address a group when their hearts have been ripped out from them, you know, and my job is to try to put them in the best position and not feel that,” Bolt said. “…When you fall short of where you think you should be, that crushes me a little bit as a coach and we weren’t able to push through.”

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Tags: Baseball