Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Ends Regular Season With Series Win Over Purdue

May 20, 2023

Nebraska baseball closed the regular season strong with a series win over Purdue, earning the deciding win on Saturday.

The Huskers, playing without Brice Matthews due to a minor injury, had already secured a conference tournament spot heading into the series. Before Saturday’s game could finish, they were locked into the fourth seed. Still, they ended their season with some momentum and kept Purdue out of the Big Ten tourney in the process.

Nebraska trailed early in both of its wins, but emerged victorious 10-5 on Thursday and 6-4 on Saturday. In between those games, the Boilermakers triumphed 7-3. That marked the Huskers’ only loss in the last seven contests of the regular season. The team played with the upcoming week in mind, having shorter appearances from top pitchers and being without other key players at times, but had a successful series regardless.

“It wasn’t perfect, but the thing I liked is we picked each other up,” head coach Will Bolt said after the final win on Huskers Radio Network. “We did that on the first game in the series as well. So it’s all going to be really important, you know, you’re gonna maybe have some unsung heroes in this tournament. That’s what you have to have to go win it.”

The series-opening game brought the biggest differential of the three, but it was close for most of the contest. The Huskers scored first on a sacrifice fly before the Boilermakers answered with a two-run homer in the second inning. Dylan Carey’s third-inning RBI single tied it up, and 2-2 was where the score stayed until the seventh.

That’s when Nebraska broke through. With a runner on and no outs, Purdue tried to play things safe. The Boilermakers walked Max Anderson, who had 19 homers on the year and two hits in the game. That brought up Gabe Swansen, who was yet to have a hit in three plate appearances but had shown his own home run prowess throughout the year. He made Purdue pay for its choice, smashing a three-run home run to take the lead and adding an emphatic bat flip.

Things only unraveled further from there. Purdue added one run in the bottom of the seventh, and Nebraska made it 6-3 in the eighth as three of the first four batters came up with hits. Anderson then came to the plate, and the opponent opted to pitch to him this time around. It brought the same result — a three-run homer.

Purdue kept fighting, scoring a run in the bottom of that inning to cut the deficit to 9-4. That RBI double was followed by a close, inning-ending strikeout call, however, one that upset the Boilermakers to the point that the batter and head coach Greg Goff were ejected for their respective words to the umpire.

Passion in that moment was understandable — the eventual loss helped ensure Purdue missed the conference tournament. Even as the Boilermakers won on Friday, scoring seven unanswered runs after starting down 3-0, they were eliminated that night by a Michigan State win.

Thanks to other results, Nebraska entered Saturday with fourth-place in the Big Ten being its worst-case scenario. It could have moved up to third with an Iowa loss, but the Hawkeyes took care of business against Northwestern.

Nebraska trailed 3-1 after the third inning of the rubber match thanks to third-inning struggles. With two outs and a runner on, shortstop fill-in Dylan Carey failed to secure a ground ball. That left the door open for Purdue, and it came up with an RBI single before starter Jackson Brockett walked the next three batters to score two additional runs. Brockett exited there, but the bullpen succeeded through the rest of the day. Brett Sears, Jake Bunz, Corbin Hawkins and Kyle Perry all played a part in that effort.

“I thought the bullpen did a good job, they really picked Jackson [Brockett] up, Jackson had good stuff,” Bolt said. “That shouldn’t have turned into a three-run inning though, I mean just with the error. We just compounded it but the guys in the in the bullpen did a nice job. Made pitches from the stretch, got off the field when we needed to get off the field.”

The Huskers responded to their deficit by making history a couple times. Charlie Fischer’s home run on Thursday was the team’s 93rd of the season, tying the program single-season record. Fischer hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning Saturday to tie the game and break record. A couple innings later, Anderson smashed a leadoff homer. That was his 21st of the year, giving him the team lead, but it was his 15th in conference play, a Big Ten record.

Some defensive mistakes by Purdue and timely hits by Nebraska grew the lead to 6-3 entering the bottom of the ninth. Perry took the mound, striking out the first two batters before a single and throwing error in the infield put two runners on. One more hit scored a run, but the final batter grounded out to end it.

Matthews missed the series with back tightness, and him being held out seemed to be in part a precautionary move. Bolt expressed postgame Saturday that they’ll need the shortstop healthy for the conference tournament in Omaha.

The team’s push for the Big Ten title will start next week against Rutgers. That game will either be played Tuesday evening or Wednesday afternoon, depending on which slot top-seeded Maryland prefers.

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Tags: Baseball