Miller powers Huskers to "identity-building" series win over Maryland
Senior first baseman Ben Miller finished a 10-for-13 weekend with a 4-for-5 performance, junior pitcher/utility Jake Meyers lasted 7.1 innings, and the Nebraska baseball team (19-11-1, 4-1-1) won its sixth straight Big Ten conference series with an 8-4 victory over No. 24 Maryland in Sunday’s rubber match.
In a game that Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said would be an “identity-builder,” the Huskers wasted no time getting the offense going in front of 4,952 fans at Haymarket Park. After a 5-4-3 double play, Meyers reached on a fielding error by the shortstop and Scott Schreiber walked. Miller had his first hit of the day on a full-count single down the left field line that scored Meyers from second base, one of the senior’s three RBIs in the series finale.
With Sunday’s game in the books, Miller is now leading the Big Ten in conference play batting average at .556 after hitting just .176 in non-conference play.
“It went pretty well this weekend - I found some holes,” Miller said after the game. “I didn’t let the pressure get too big. I just closed my eyes, imagined no one was on base, and did what I know how to do. It worked out this weekend.”
“Like I’ve said from the second I’ve been with him, the man can flat out hit,” Erstad said of his senior. “When he gets on runs like this and he’s seeing the ball really well, it’s fun to watch.”
Hitting wasn’t the only thing Miller had going Sunday. In a tie game in the bottom of the fourth, the 6’4”, 272-pound lefty rumbled down the base path to beat out a throw home on a Jesse Wilkening sacrifice fly that was lined into left field. With two outs in the fifth inning, Miller ripped a double into left center, scoring Meyers and Mojo Hagge to make it a 4-1 game.
Maryland (20-10, 6-3) wouldn’t go down quietly. In the top of the sixth inning, sophomore slugger Marty Costes continued a career day at the plate with a two-run homer that left the ball park over Hagge’s head. But senior Jake Schleppenbach matched Costes with a two-run homer of his own, his second in two weeks and the second of his career.
Not content with a three-run lead, the Huskers loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh with no outs, driving in runs on a Wilkening single and a wild pitch to stretch the lead to 8-3 and post their third consecutive two-run inning. Meyers finished another sterling start after recording one out in the eighth, and Luensmann retired the side without allowing a run from two baserunners.
The win moved Meyers to 5-1 on the season with a 2.25 ERA. The junior lefty is now tied atop the Big Ten conference in wins with Maryland’s Tyler Blohm, who took the loss today to drop to 5-3.
“This was a huge win. It completely changed the weekend, really,” Meyers said. “Losing sucks. Everybody hates losing, but we chose the path we wanted to take and that was to come out aggressive this game and we played well as a team.”
Sunday’s win moved Nebraska to second place in the Big Ten standings behind Minnesota and improved the Huskers to 10-3 at home and 8-0-1 in series finales. It was NU's first series win against a ranked team since last May, a road series win over Michigan State that was the catalyst for the late-season run to a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“Winning that series against a good Maryland team, that’s big for us,” Miller said. “Playing at home, there was a lot of fans and the atmosphere was amazing. Winning this series is big for our confidence."
“Going into the heart of conference play, we’re playing pretty good baseball."