Back in the fall, the Huskers realized they were going to be down a few catchers due to injuries, so they approached freshman outfielder Quinn McGill about being the team's emergency catcher. McGill accepted the challenge, but he immediately ran into a problem picking up his equipment.
"What glove do I get?" a confused McGill asked starting catcher Tanner Lubach back in October.
McGill eventually figured out his equipment issues and learned the position as a whole, and it paid off Saturday. With Lubach already out with a high ankle sprain, Taylor Fish pulled up with a hamstring injury running the bases in the sixth inning. Suddenly, the emergency catcher was the main man behind the plate.
The true freshman held up just fine in three innings of work, and the Nebraska offense continued its demolition of Penn State's pitching in a 9-2 win Saturday afternoon. In front of a season-high crowd of 6,082 fans, Pat Kelly and Austin Darby both hit home runs to help the Huskers improve to 31-17 on the season and 12-5 in the Big Ten.
This came after NU belted 21 hits in a 13-3 laugher over the Nittany Lions on Friday.
"We don't talk about carryover," Darin Erstad said. "We talk about resetting the games over and having that same approach that we had. For the most part, we've done a good job of maintaining pressure with a good approach, and we're going to have to do it again tomorrow."
Aaron Bummer rebounded from a couple of recent nasty starts with a very solid outing, allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings. He did have four walks and hit a batter, but managed to escape most of the jams he got into.
But the story of the day was McGill. He was the designated catcher for one pitcher in high school at Wahoo, and had only caught one inning this year heading into Saturday's contest. McGill blocked several balls low in the dirt and backed up an errant throw to first late in the game. He did have one passed ball that allowed a run to score, but some rustiness was to be expected.
McGill admits that awaiting Bummer's first pitch brought some nerves, but there was eagerness as well.
"I didn't come in here as a catcher, but I accepted the role when Coach said, 'Hey, we're going to need you to come in here and step up,'" McGill said. "It was more exciting, knowing that you get to play in front of 6,000 fans. Not many people get to do that in their lifetimes.
"There were a lot of nerves right away, but Tanner prepared me for that role."
With Fish listed as day-to-day and Lubach still on the mend, McGill appears in line to get his first career start Sunday in the series finale at 11 a.m. The significance of that moment is not lost on the freshman.
"It's incredible," McGill said. "It just builds confidence for me, and hopefully it builds confidence in the coaches that if something happens, we can throw this kid behind the plate. It's a big deal for me. I didn't play much in the field, so it's exciting learning what coach (Will) Bolt does during the game, what coach Erstad says during the game. Those little things help you become the best player possible."
Designated hitter Ben Miller: Nebraska's true freshmen had quite the collective day. Ryan Boldt drove in three runs and McGill did his thing behind the plate, but Miller was the best of them all. He had two hits, walked once, scored two runs and knocked in a run of his own.
Starter Aaron Bummer: The junior had given up a combined eight runs in his past two starts, but he was nails on Saturday. Other than one eight-batter stretch in which he issued all four of his walks and hit a batter, Bummer's control was solid, and he struck out a career-high six batters.
Around the horn
***Top 2014 recruit Jakson Reetz was in attendance and spoke with Erstad for several minutes after the game.
***Michael Pritchard's first-inning single extended his hitting streak to 13 games, the longest for any Husker this season.
***Nebraska had multiple homers in a game for just the second time this year. The Huskers also hit two bombs against Minnesota on April 13.
***The attendance was 6,082, a season high.