The last time Nebraska baseball scored double digit runs in a season opener? According to Nebraska’s Chris Pankonin, the year was 2005. Fourteen years later, the Huskers did it again with a 21-6 defeat of UC Riverside on Friday night. Those 21 runs also marked the most runs scored for Nebraska in a season opener since 1996 when the Huskers scored 23 against New Mexico State.
There was a point where it didn’t seem like Nebraska would walk away with the win that it did. The Huskers trailed 5-3 heading into the seventh inning, but that’s when Coach Darin Erstad’s group was able to shake it loose. Nebraska scored six runs with two outs in the seventh inning, and added another seven in the eighth and five in the ninth.
It didn’t look like Nebraska had spent weeks practicing inside. The Huskers instead looked ready for live action as the season kicked off in Riverside.
A major talking point of the offseason had been the younger players and what they would be able to bring to the table in 2019. On Friday, we got to see what exactly those players could do. Three freshmen were included in the starting lineup: Spencer Schwellenbach at third base and as the leadoff batter, Cam Chick at second base and Omaha native Colby Gomes as the designated hitter.
And then there was sophomore Jaxon Hallmark, who went 4-for-5 with five RBIs and two runs scored. It ended in a career night for Hallmark, which was a huge turnaround after battling a wrist injury through the fall and winter.
Chad Luensmann got the anticipated start on the mound after missing last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. He pitched 3.0 innings. UC Riverside scored five of the team’s six runs off Luensmann but all five were unearned. The Huskers also got a strong performance from Connor Curry, who returned from an injury as well. He earned the win for Nebraska with four one-hit, shutout innings. Ben Klenke finished the game with 2.0 innings.
Some innings (like the fourth) showed some jitters from Nebraska. That’s where the Huskers committed costly errors that led to runs for Riverside. Those nerves were to be expected, especially when starting three freshman, three sophomores and four total newcomers.
Starting 9 for Opening Day.
First pitch 30 minutes away. pic.twitter.com/v3t7rG6bCY
— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) February 15, 2019
Once those newcomers settled in though? It was all smooth sailing for the Huskers from there.
Nebraska and UC Riverside return to the mound for a doubleheader on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. CT. Both games can be streamed on BigWest.TV.