Despite Nebraska’s recent struggles, the team entered Game 2 against Illinois still battling for first place in the Big Ten. And Game 2 was competitive all the way through and was a much different feel than Friday’s Game 1, which the Huskers dropped 8-1.
Illinois picked up right where it left off from Friday, smashing three hits and scoring two runs in the first inning. The Huskers were on the wrong end of a couple of close calls and it looked like it might be a repeat of the night before.
Nate Fisher commanded the game for Nebraska on the mound and had a very similar performance to Matt Waldron in Game 1. Fisher went 6.0 innings, giving up seven hits and three run. He also recorded three strikeouts. It wasn't his best performance but like Waldron, he was able to compose himself in the chaos.
Following Saturday’s win, Robbie Palkert said the Huskers approached Game 2 with an edge.
“We came out looking to kick someone’s teeth in,” he said.
Palkert also mentioned that he believes this team’s identity is “fight” and that is what they have done all season.
Colby Gomes recorded an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning to cut the lead in half. This was important, but Nebraska had the bases loaded with no outs and only came up with one run. The Huskers left 10 runners on base in the game.
Aaron Palensky came up big with an RBI single in the fourth inning to bring the Huskers within one yet again. Angelo Altavilla tied the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the seventh.
The scoreboard stayed quiet in the eighth inning and Palkert sat down the Illini in order in the ninth. Game 2 came down to the final at bat. The Huskers brought Joe Acker to the plate with runners on first and second with one out.
And then this happened.
Acker was the hero of the night. He said post-game that the Huskers were destined to get one after getting walked off themselves several times this season.
“I had the chance and luckily I came through, it felt great,” Acker said. “The baseball gods came through to give me a good ol’ six-hole single to get that walk-off. It was huge.”
Acker mentioned how the team has had some struggles as of late, but thinks this could be a turning point.
“We’ve got to come out tomorrow and win the series,” he said.
Coach Darin Erstad said it felt great to just find a way in the bottom of the ninth.
“It was a grind it out win when you’re not playing well,” Erstad said.
The Huskers have struggled to execute quality bunts, but Jaxon Hallmark came through when they needed it to put Palensky in scoring position. It was another example of this team responding after a bad loss and backing up the “fighter” identity they talk so much about.
Nebraska and Illinois will play again on Sunday in a game that will decide the series. Reece Eddins will get the start and first pitch is set for 11:05 a.m. CT.