Huskers in driver's seat for B1G title following 3-1 win on Friday night
Clutch plays from junior left fielder Luis Alvarado and senior second baseman Jake Schleppenbach secured the victory for Nebraska and put them in the driver seat for a Big Ten title in Friday night’s 3-1 win over Penn State.
The Huskers were held scoreless in the first three innings as Penn State sophomore pitcher Justin Hagenman (1-10,5.63 ERA) was red-hot early on. He struck out six of the first ten batters he faced and held NU to zero hits through three innings.
Nebraska recorded their first hit of the game in the fourth inning. Senior first baseman Ben Miller hit a two-out double down the left field line, but freshman third baseman Luke Roskam flied out to end the inning.
Penn State had an opportunity in the fourth as they recorded back-to-back singles to start the inning and eventually had runners on second and third with one-out. NU senior pitcher Derek Burkamper (6-4, 3.05 ERA) came through as he forced an infield popout and struck out Brett Davis to end the inning.
NU's bats came alive in the top of the fifth inning as junior Luis Alvarado hit a double down the left field line. This was followed up by a sacrifice fly by sophomore catcher Jesse Wilkening and another clutch hit from senior Jake Schleppenbach that scored Alvarado.
After giving up a single to start the sixth, Burkamper was replaced by sophomore Jake McSteen. Burkamper finished with two strikeouts, one walk and allowed no runs off of six hits. McSteen came in and got the next three batters out.
The seventh started off with a lead-off walk that put Alvarado on first. After a Wilkening strikeout, Schleppenbach struck again, as he hit another RBI single to plate Alvarado and propelled NU to a 2-0 advantage.
Thursday nights late-game performance showed some flashes of a repeat on Friday night, as the Huskers gave up a run in the eighth. That’s when McSteen was replaced by Alvarado on the mound and he recorded the biggest strikeout of his career to end the eighth.
Alvarado followed up that huge strikeout with a solo home run to right center. It was Alvarado’s second home run of the year.
“He gets a huge strikeout and then goes and hits a homer,” head coach Darin Erstad said. “He’s going crazy in the dugout, hyperventilating and screaming and everything. We had to get him back grounded, but he did a nice job of finding a way through it.”
There were yet more flashes of Thursday night’s performance as sophomore shortstop Angelo Altavilla committed a throwing error in the ninth and Schleppenbach nearly lost the handle on a routine grounder to second. But freshman outfielder Mojo Hagge was able to secure the win after catching a fly ball to left field.
“The game of baseball gives you feeling that are hard to rephrase,” Erstad said. “I told the guys the feeling you have out there, the guys are tight you can just see it, but just embrace them because you’re never going to have them again.”
Nebraska returns to action on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. central time. The pitching matchup will feature Nebraska LHP Jake Meyers (7-1, 3.34 ERA, 72.2 IP, 45 K) vs. Penn State RHP Eric Mock (0-5, 6.53 ERA, 40.0 IP, 45 K). The game can be seen on http://www.gopsusports.com/collegesportslive or BTN Plus and can be hard on Huskers IMG Sports Network.
“I’m excited to get the opportunity. At the start of the year you said ‘Hey you got one game to win a conference championship would you take that?’ Everybody would shake their head yes. It doesn’t change what we are doing."