Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Baseball Wins Two Games Against Illinois State, Series Finale Canceled

March 12, 2023

Nebraska baseball won two games in its weekend series against Illinois State, with Sunday’s series finale being canceled.

The Huskers continued their offensive momentum while starting pitchers Emmett Olson and Jace Kaminska both put together strong outings. Nebraska won Friday’s game 8-3, and recorded its first shutout of the year with a 12-0 victory on Saturday. Both games were played in poor weather, with Saturday’s game time being pushed back a couple hours due to rain, but Sunday’s especially low temperatures led to the cancellation.

In the series opener, Nebraska got in front early and never relinquished its advantage. Brice Matthews played a big part in that effort. He led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, then stole second base. He made his way home soon after thanks to a Max Anderson RBI groundout.

The score remained at 1-0 through four innings of play, as Olson kept Illinois State scoreless and Redbirds starter Derek Salata settled in. However, Casey Burnham recorded Nebraska’s first extra-base hit in the bottom of the fifth inning, and Matthews followed with a two-run homer deep down the left field line.

The junior shortstop, who currently leads the team in RBIs and stolen bases, had a batting average of .429 after Friday’s game.

“Sticking to our preparation, our routine, that’s what our coaches preach heavily on,” Matthews said postgame of what’s allowed this level of success. “Sticking to that, and then sky’s the limit.”

Olson’s day came to an end in the seventh inning as he gave up a single and home run that cut Nebraska’s lead to 3-2. Shay Schanaman took the mound after that, retiring the next three batters to end the frame.

Salata exited on Illinois State’s side to begin the bottom of the seventh, which allowed the Husker offense to break things open. With one out and one runner on, Nebraska hit a triple, double and single on consecutive at-bats, all of them bringing in a run. Burnham made it a six-run advantage to end the inning, hitting a two-run single despite being tagged out trying to reach second base.

Schanaman fared far better than Illinois State’s relievers, allowing one run in the ninth inning but nothing else. He and Olson combined for 13 strikeouts, the latter recording a career-high eight.

“[Olson] really set the tone,” head coach Will Bolt said. “You know, he was out on attack in that first inning, his mindset was in the right spot, obviously, I mean, can’t really be worried about anything else except each pitch and I thought he did a great job of that all night. He was in complete control.”

The team once again set the tone in game two. Jace Kaminska wasn’t striking batters out at the level of Olson or Schanaman, but he put together seven scoreless innings while only allowing three hits and one walk. Jalen Worthley and JC Gutierrez pitched one inning each to finish the shutout.

Kaminska also went six scoreless innings in his last start, holding Hawaii to four hits in that outing.

“I’m not getting a lot of strikeouts or whatever but I’m effectively hitting my spots and getting into pitcher’s counts and getting quick outs and weak contact,” Kaminska said. “I think that’s what’s allowed me to go so deep into games.”

Meanwhile, the offense put up seven runs by the end of the third inning in another impressive performance. Perhaps most notable was the fact that the first four hitters in Nebraska’s lineup went a combined 0-for-14 at the plate and the team still finished with 12 runs. The Huskers’ didn’t have a home run, ending a streak of 12 consecutive games with a homer, but they showcased the depth in their lineup.

“There were some good things in the top of the order too, had a couple of runs driven in up there, some barreled balls that didn’t show up as hits,” Bolt said after Saturday’s win. “Shows that you don’t have to have one or two guys carry you. The back half of the lineup did amazingly well.”

Cole Evans highlighted that effort with a 4-for-4 showing. He brought in the first run with an RBI double, then plated three more scores over the course of the game. Bolt said it was tough to find him at-bats earlier on in the season, but he’s taken advantage of recent opportunities. Over the last three games, he’s gone 9-for-11 at the plate with seven RBI, three doubles and two home runs.

Nebraska’s now won four straight games, including nine of its last 10. The Huskers will be back in action at Haymarket Park on Tuesday against Nebraska-Omaha, then will take on Nicholls State in a four-game series later in the week.

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Tags: Baseball