Huskers Advance to Regional Final with 18-4 Win – CENTRAL
Fayetteville, Ark. – The No. 19 Nebraska baseball team kept its season alive with a 18-4 victory over the NJIT Highlanders Sunday afternoon in an elimination game at Baum-Walker Stadium.
With the win, the Huskers (33-13) reached the regional final for the first time 2007, and now face top-seeded Arkansas at 8 p.m. (central) on ESPNU. The Huskers will need to beat the Razorbacks twice to advance to next week’s Super Regional.
The Huskers matched their school mark for runs in an NCAA Tournament game (18 vs. Eastern Michigan, 2003) while the 19 hits fell one shy of the school mark for hits in a postseason game. NU also set season bests in both runs (17 vs. Minnesota on March 27) and hits (17, twice) and tallied nine extra-base hits, including four home runs – one each from Joe Acker, Cam Chick, Brice Matthews and Jaxon Hallmark.
Acker had a banner day, as he set career highs with four hits and four runs scored. The senior right fielder tripled and homered in his first two at bats and then added a pair of singles as he fell double short of Nebraska’s first cycle since 2006.
Chick went 2-for-5 with four RBI, including a three-run inside-the-park home run to highlight NU’s eight-run fourth inning. It was NU’s third inside-the-park homer of the season and Chick’s second, as he also produced one at Illinois on April 4.
With the potential for two games on Sunday, Nebraska needed an extended start from Shay Schanaman and the junior delivered. Schanaman (5-2) allowed just one run on four hits over 7.0 innings – his longest outing since March 28 – and struck out five. Caleb Feekin and Braxton Bragg pitched one inning apiece in relief, as NU limited the Highlanders to five hits.
Schanaman worked around a two-out error in the top of the first and then NU’s offense put a run on the board. Acker nearly led off with a homer, but had to settle for his first triple of the season off the center-field wall. Grant Vurpillat responded with a strikeout of Hallmark, but then walked Spencer Schwellenbach on four-straight pitches. With runners on the corners and one down, Luke Roskam beat out a potential inning-ending double-play ball that scored Acker.
After just missing a home run in the first, Acker led off the bottom of the third with his sixth round tripper of the year, belting a 1-2 pitch into the Husker bullpen beyond the left-field wall.
Schanaman kept the Highlanders off the board through the first three innings before giving up a leadoff homer to Matt Cocciadiferr in the fourth. NJIT’s cleanup hitter cut Nebraska’s lead in half with his fourth home run of the season. Schanaman got a groundout and then walked Paul Franzoni on four pitches to put the tying run on base. The right hander dug in and produced consecutive strikeouts to keep the Huskers ahead, 2-1.
Nebraska’s offense then broke the game open with an eight spot in the bottom of the fourth, matching its season high for runs in an inning this season. Four of the eight runs scored with two outs. The Huskers loaded the bases with no outs, as Chick was hit-by-pitch, Matthews walked and Mojo Hagge executed a bunt single. With reliever Croix Jenkins on the mound, Logan Foster produced a sacrifice fly to center that scored Chick. The Huskers then reeled off three straight singles from Acker, Hallmark and Schwellenbach to plate three more runs. Jenkins got a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, but then gave up an RBI single to Everitt. Chick came up for the second time in the inning and pounced on the first pitch he saw, blasting it off the left-center-field wall, and motored around the bases for his second inside-park home run of the season to make it 10-1.
The Highlanders loaded the bases in the top of the fifth following a two-out error and a walk, but Schanaman left them loaded with fly out. Nebraska’s offense then tossed up another crooked number with six runs on four hits, including a two-run homer from Matthews. Schwellenbach plated a pair of runs with a single, Roskam then drove in Schwellenbach with a double and two batters later Chick drove in Roskam with a double. NJIT went to reliever Jake Rappaport and on his second pitch Matthews cleared the 400-foot sign in center field for his fifth homer of the season.
Following a scoreless sixth, each team plated a run in the seventh. Albert Choi scored on Nebraska’s season-high third error of the game. The Huskers got in back in the bottom of the frame when Gunner Hellstrom drove in Roskam with his first double of the season.
Caleb Feekin took over for Schanaman in the top of the eighth and walked the first batter he saw. Franzoni then worked a full count and hammer a no doubter over the left-field wall, his sixth of the year. Feekin settled in and retired the next three batters with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a ground out.
Hallmark tacked on Nebraska’s final run in the bottom of the eighth with his ninth homer of the year before Bragg closed it out with a perfect ninth.
The Huskers will take the field later tonight against Arkansas at 8 p.m.. The game will be televised on ESPNU and available on the ESPN app with radio coverage by the Learfield/IMG College Husker Sports Network.