Hohensee sets career high in strikeouts as Huskers down Rutgers
Nebraska junior pitcher Jake Hohensee didn’t know if he’d ever pitched a 10-hit, 10-strikeout game. But after ending a career performance that had its ups and downs, the hard-throwing right hander was only concerned about one stat.
“It was a good Friday win,” Hohensee said. “I trusted my defense and they made huge plays behind me.”
Defensive web gems and timely offense created the tale of the tape in the Huskers' 8-5 win over Rutgers Friday night, a victory that gave Hohensee his sixth win of the season and improved Nebraska’s record to 27-16-1 (10-5-1 B1G).
Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said the win was crucial to shake off the cobwebs of finals week.
“They’re grinding, they’re mentally tired - there’s no doubt about it,” Erstad said. “You can tell everything wasn’t as sharp, but we found a way.”
Rutgers (17-26, 5-8) started the scoring with two outs in the top of the first. An RBI double by senior right fielder Tom Marcinczyk just snuck inside the right field line to score Mike Martinez from second base. But the Huskers would respond in the bottom frame, stringing together three singles and an RBI to lead off before Angelo Altavilla scored from a throwing error on a sure double play ball.
Hohensee found his groove again in the second, adding four strikeouts to his total over the next three innings. Freshman Luke Roskam led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run to left field to extend Nebraska’s lead to 3-1, and Hohensee forced a 1-2-3 inning with two more strikeouts in the top of the fifth.
Hohensee said he threw about 35 sliders from the second inning on, freezing batters on called third strikes that made up four of his strikeouts.
“The second inning, that’s when it occurred to me and Coach (Ted) Silva and we decided to stick with it,” Hohensee said of his slider. “It was my go-to pitch and good things happened."
In the bottom of the fifth, the Husker bats got rolling. After Jake Schleppenbach reached on an error and advanced to second, Jake Meyers beat out the throw on a sacrifice bunt to put runners at the corners with no outs. A triple by Altavilla scored Meyers and Schleppenbach before Scott Schreiber blasted a home run to the deepest part of the ball park - right center field - to put up a four-spot in the frame.
“You’re trying to drive them in or even get a sac fly, anything can help,” Altavilla said about coming to the plate with runners on, which he did twice in Friday’s three-hit, two-RBI game. “Whether you’re moving them over or driving them in, it doesn’t really matter, so it’s awesome to have those two guys on."
After Meyers singled to bring in Mojo Hagge in the bottom of the sixth, the Huskers ran into some trouble after bringing an 8-1 lead into the top of the seventh. With two strikeouts under his belt in the frame - and 10 for the game - Hohensee ran into some trouble with a walk, an RBI double, and a two-RBI single to cut it to an 8-4 game.
Sophomore reliever Robbie Palkert took over from there, and in the play of the game, Hagge made a backward-diving, highlight-reel catch in right field to save what would’ve been a two-run double to cut the lead in half.
“I was fired up,” Hohensee said of his reaction to Hagge’s catch. “I was jumping around in the dugout and came out and gave him a big bear hug. He’s a grinder out in the outfield, I love him out in the outfield, and he catches everything."
Nebraska posed scoring threats in the seventh and eighth, but left two on in both frames. The Scarlets Knights rallied with a walk and an RBI single in the ninth, but closer Chad Luensmann forced a 6-3 groundout to end the game and give the Huskers their 10th Big Ten win.
“I thought we were just a little rusty today,” Erstad said. “It’s hard, man. When you get out of your routine and you’re used to doing something all the time, it’s like feel. Any kind of feel, like if you’re a golfer and you chip or putt, you’re not going to magically be able to do it when you take a few days off.
“Same goes with baseball … but we found our way through it.”
The Huskers return to action Saturday afternoon at Haymarket Park, looking to clinch the series before Game 3. First pitch from Derek Burkamper is set for 2:05 p.m. with a clear and sunny forecast.