Nebraska baseball ends season with 10-9 win over Michigan State
Nebraska baseball (23-20, 10-14 Big Ten) ended its season on a familiar note as they outlasted Michigan State as they scored five runs in the top of the ninth. The Huskers managed to win 10-9 after allowing the game to slip away as they did in many games during the 2022 season.
The Huskers played its final game of the season on Saturday against the Spartans. On top of a Big Red win, NU needed Purdue to lose to Maryland to lock down the No. 8 seed and go to the Big Ten tournament.
However, the game wasn't played due to pending weather in West Lafayette. The game was supposed to start at the same time as Nebraska's (noon) but it was delayed. The rain started to come down hard roughly two hours after the start time.
Right-handed pitcher Mason Ornelas earned his first start of the season against the Spartans. He walked the leadoff batter, Mitch Jebb, and gave up a double to Trent Farquhar that landed in between center-fielder Cam Chick and right-fielder Garrett Anglim.
Both Jebb and Farquhar made it home as Casey Mayes and Jack Frank each sacrificed to get one runner home each. Nebraska got three consecutive outs with Mayes, Frank and Brock Vradenburg all out at first.
Michigan State's right-handed pitcher Ryan Szczepaniak also walked the first batter he faced and the second batter as Chick and Anglim both took first. Catcher Griffin Everitt advanced both runners as he grounded out to third.
Third baseman Max Anderson launched his ninth home run of the season as it bounced off a canopy in the center-field terrace. Nebraska went up 3-2 in the first inning.
Colby Gomes reached base on a single and Leighton Banjoff took first as he was hit by a pitch on his helmet. But back-to-back outs left them stranded.
In the second inning, Ornelas settled in and retired three consecutive Spartans. In the Husker half, Cervantes was the second batter drilled in the helmet by a pitch. Chick was up next but was grounded out into a double play with Cervantes out at second. Anglim flied out to center for the third out.
Anglim made up for it as he saved a three-run homer in the top of the third as he jumped up on the right-field bullpen fence and snag the ball hit by Mayes.
No one scored until Vradenburg jacked a leadoff homer to right field in the top of the fourth, tying it up 3-3. Ornelas retired the next three batters.
Husker designated hitter Luke Jessen got things rolling in the bottom of the fourth with a single. With Jessen and Chick on base and two outs, Everitt crushed a homer to center-field for three RBIs.
Right-handed pitcher Braxton Bragg took over on the mound for Ornelas to start the fifth inning. Ornelas gave up three runs, three hits and one home run in his four innings. He struck out two batters.
Bragg held Michigan State scoreless in the top of the fifth and set up a big Husker half-inning. After Banjoff struck out, Matthews, Jessen and Cervantes hit consecutive singles and Cervantes scored Matthews.
Chick hit a deep fly ball to center field allowing Jessen to stomp on home plate. Cervantes was caught stealing for the final out of the inning.
Nebraska's next run came in the bottom of the seventh when Banjoff hit his second homer of the season into left field to start the inning. NU went up 9-3. Matthew and Jessen both flied out, Cervantes doubled to right field but was stranded as Chick fouled out.
Bragg gave up a double to Frank in the top half of the eighth and his first run of the game as Vradenberg sacrifice flied to left field to allow Frank to score and MSU close the gap to 9-4.
Right-handed pitcher Corbin Hawkins took over for Bragg and struck out Kark for the final out of the inning. Bragg pitched 3.2 innings, gave up three hits, one run and struck out two batters.
Anderson hit his second home run of the contest in the bottom of the eighth with no one on base and two outs, extending Nebraska's lead to 10-4.
Michigan State wasn't going away though as they had six hits and scored five runs in the top of the ninth. Hawkins faced the first three batters and gave up two hits and one run. Broecker, the second batter, reached on a fielding error by shortstop Brice Matthews.
Left-handed pitcher Chandler Benson took over and gave up four hits including a grand slam by Farquhar, to make the game 10-9. Right-handed pitcher CJ Hood finished the game by facilitating a pop-up and striking out Peter Ahn for the last out of Nebraska's season.
Too many shoulda, coulda, woulda
Nebraska's only hope of continuing its season was out of its hands on Saturday as they defeated Michigan State. The Huskers took care of their own business as they came up with a win on an impressive game outside of the ninth inning.
But even with a win, an unplayed Purdue-Maryland game in West Lafayette sealed Nebraska's fate.
However, the Huskers had many opportunities to not let their season be decided by anyone but themselves. And based on head coach Will Bolt and infielder Max Anderson's postgame comments, they are fully aware of it.
"There are just so many shoulda, coulda, wouldas this year," Bolt said. "When it came down to it, how many opportunities we had on a game three of a series to win and we finally did it today when we needed it."
"It's an empty feeling because you feel like you got over the hump and finally did what you needed to do on championship Saturday and something that's totally out of your control doesn't allow you to continue your season," Bolt continued.
He said but ultimately the games that Nebraska let slip through their mits came back to bit them "severely."
Not an ounce of doubt from Bolt
Despite being a part of his first losing season in his over 20 seasons of experience, Bolt has no doubt that he knows what a winning program and culture looks like.
"There is not a single ounce of me that has taken a step back in the belief I have in what it takes to win," Bolt said. "There is not a single ounce of me that goes "Oh well maybe that's not the case." I know what it looks like, I know what it's supposed to look like."
With that being said, Nebraska had a season full of ups and downs, some out of their control (injuries, players leaving the team) and others in their control (winning, errors, miscommunications, etc.)
"We have to evaluate from a roster management standpoint what it's supposed to look like, from a recruiting standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, all of it," Bolt said.
Nebraska has a lot of evaluation to do during the off-season but Bolt is confident he is the man for the job.