Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska Breezes by Northwestern in Weekend Sweep

April 16, 2023

On an especially windy Sunday at Haymarket Park, Nebraska baseball breezed by Northwestern, winning 18-5 to close out a sweep of the Wildcats.

The blowout followed two comfortable victories on Friday and Saturday — the former by a score of 8-3 and the latter with a margin of 9-2.

This was generally expected, as Northwestern entered the weekend with a record of 5-22 in the midst of a tumultuous season. However, Nebraska (21-11-1, 7-2 Big Ten) failed to close out potential sweeps against Nicholls and Illinois within the last month and the Wildcats had gone 3-3 in their first six conference games. There was reason to wonder whether the Huskers could take care of business.

Nebraska delivered on the sweep this time in dominating fashion, scoring in each of the first seven innings and shutting down the opposing offense for nearly the entire contest. The win also marked the team’s second straight Sunday triumph, following last week’s series-clinching win over Michigan.

Postgame, there were plenty of more obvious things head coach Will Bolt could’ve pointed to as the reason for the turnaround in that area. This was the second Sunday in a row that Nebraska has scored double-digit runs, and the second in a row that Will Walsh has been the starting pitcher. But rather than the approach at the plate, or steadier pitching, the head coach pointed to support from the dugout.

“What we did a great job of this weekend in particular, and honestly what we saw last Sunday was — it may sound like a little thing, but it’s the intent of the dugout,” head coach Will Bolt said postgame. “The guys that aren’t necessarily in the game playing are helping kind of keep the momentum on our side and really competing.”

Bolt said that he’s not necessarily expecting players to be cheerleaders, but that the hitters are able to feel that the rest of the team is behind them.

“That’s a real thing in college baseball,” Bolt said. “It may not be in the big leagues and you know, maybe other places but we feel like you can really compete when you’re on the bench.”

For all the weekend’s success, momentum didn’t start building right away on Friday. Nebraska was held hitless for the first three innings of the series opener, and Emmett Olson had what may be have been his worst start of the season as Northwestern built a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth. Olson, the most reliable starter on the team, gave up a solo shot in the third inning and walked three batters in the fourth. After allowing a two-run single, he was pulled in favor of Corbin Hawkins.

That was the only advantage the Wildcats had in the series, and it didn’t last long. Max Anderson recorded Nebraska’s first hit in the bottom of the fourth, and then was brought home by a sac fly later in the frame. A five-run fifth inning put the Huskers in front, highlighted by a two-RBI triple by Brice Matthews and a two-run homer from Anderson. Matthews hit his own homer in the sixth inning, and Nebraska pulled away with the help of strong bullpen pitching from Hawkins and Kyle Perry.

Saturday’s win, which was delayed by nearly two hours due to rain, might have been the most odd of the three. All nine Husker runs came in the second inning and eight came with two outs. That was all the team needed, while starter Jackson Brockett pitched six scoreless innings. Usual Saturday starter Jace Kaminska got the weekend off for rest.

The big hitting day Sunday was aided by strong winds at Haymarket Park. Northwestern players struggled to deal with the gusts, as multiple doubles dropped in the shallow outfield and Wildcats leaped for balls around the warning track that didn’t come very close to their gloves.

The Huskers finished the game with 20 hits. They had seven home runs, six doubles and a triple. Matthews and Swansen each had two homers, while Anderson also sent one over the right field wall.

Those three players now each have double-digit homers with 20 regular season games remaining. Anderson and Matthews both have 13, while Swansen is up to 10. It’s the first time three Huskers have recorded 10 or more home runs since 2005.

Walsh held Northwestern scoreless through his five innings pitched, and the Wildcats only had two runs until they came up with a two-out, three-run double in the ninth inning. Nebraska put together an all-around great game to close the series, only misjudging a ball due to the wind on a few occasions.

The next week will be an important one for the Huskers. They’ll take on Creighton on Tuesday, just under a month after the Bluejays won on a walkoff in the first meeting. Then, they’ll face a good Iowa team on the road.

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Tags: Baseball