Nebraska’s bats were hot, and so was junior right-hander Matt Waldron you could say, even though the weather wasn’t on Saturday afternoon. In fact, the wind chill was such that the game’s first pitch was delayed, by rule, just over an hour.
The delay didn’t seem to have a negative effect on the Cornhuskers, however. They struck early and often, once again rebounding from a series-opening loss on Friday to defeat Minnesota 8-2.
Scott Schreiber initiated the assault with a one-out, two-run home run in the first inning and hit a solo home run in the third for a 4-0 lead. The home runs give the senior from Menasha, Wisconsin, 32 for his Husker career, just two shy of the school’s all-time top 10.
The double-home-run game was Schreiber’s fifth.
The second cleared the second fence in right field. “There’s no fences where that guy can’t get to,” said Coach Darin Erstad. “There’s him on our team and then there’s everybody else.”
Nebraska scored in each of the first five innings, including a three-run fifth.
The Huskers also got a solid start from Waldron, who allowed one earned run in an efficient seven innings; he threw just 93 pitches, and though he allowed eight hits, including at least one in every inning, he didn’t walk anyone and struck out five, four of them in his last two innings.
On Friday, Nebraska pitchers walked seven.
Paul Tillotson pitched the last two innings, allowing one hit and striking out one.
“I always rely on my defense and just kind of put it in the zone and let them take care of it,” said Waldron, whose record improved to 2-1 with a 3.27 earned-run-average.
“Just leave the ball down pretty much, I’d say, whatever pitch it is.”
All of the hits Waldron allowed were singles, only one of which led off an inning. He struck out the last batter he faced to finish the seventh and left the mound to applause from a bundled-up crowd that stayed through the pre-game delay and braved the cold.
Seven innings from Waldron were more than Erstad expected. “If you would’ve told me that before the game, I would’ve given you a big hug and said, ‘Sure, we’re going out to supper,’” he said. “That was above and beyond what we expected to get out of him.
“He was very efficient, not a ton of stress on him. That was just a huge start for us.”
Waldron’s final pitch, the strikeout, might’ve had the highest velocity, said Erstad. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on. “Fortunately, I didn’t think it was as cold as it actually was, and that kind of helped, possibly, I’m not sure,” said Waldron.
Waldron “mixes pitches,” said Erstad. “I mean, he came out (with) great height on his fastball and was throwing his breaking ball for strikes, (his) change-up for a strike. You’re mixing three pitches, you’ve got a fighting chance. We needed a big start from him and boy did he ever deliver.”
“I don’t think I was pacing myself, but maybe though,” Waldron said. “I would agree, though; I thought my hardest pitch might’ve honestly been the very last one. It felt good ending on that one.”
Husker batters struck out nine times, one of their few negatives. But they made up for that with 10 hits, supplemented by five walks and a pair of Minnesota errors.
Schreiber went 3-for-4, to raise his batting average to .348, and scored three runs. The home runs were his team-leading fifth and sixth of the season. Jaxon Hallmark was 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs scored and two driven in.
The Big Ten-opening series will conclude on Sunday with a 2 p.m. game televised by BTN.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.