Nebraska baseball picked up a much-needed win on Tuesday night bouncing back against Omaha following last weekend’s sweep.
The Huskers, boosted by serious contributions from young guns Drew Christo and Dylan Carey, salvaged the series with the Mavericks. Nebraska dodged a season sweep with a 6-3 victory and head coach Will Bolt’s squad is 22-14-1 on the year.
Nebraska’s offensive struggles from the past weekend trickled into the first inning. The Huskers went down in order featuring a pair of looking strikeouts and a loud flyout from Max Anderson. Corbin Hawkins drew his first career start and guided Nebraska through the bottom half of the inning with ease. The lefty worked around a single with a pair of punchouts of his own.
The Huskers shook off their slump in the second. Singles by Gabe Swansen and Garrett Anglim set the table for Carey’s two-out bomb to left that drove in three runs to give Nebraska the early advantage. Hawkins did his part during Omaha’s chance at the plate and sat the Mavericks down 1-2-3 to keep momentum squarely in the Husker corner.
Omaha got to Hawkins in the bottom of the third with a pair of two-out singles. Nebraska went to the bullpen for Jalen Worthley to face Maverick star Mike Boeve and his .436 batting average. Boeve slapped an RBI single to right and the Huskers brought in a new reliever to face Omaha cleanup hitter Noah Greise.
Christo took the hill next and struck out Greise on a 3-2 pitch to keep Nebraska’s 3-1 lead intact.
Christo was called on again in the fourth. The embattled sophomore allowed a leadoff double to begin the frame but bounced back in a big way. With one out and a runner on third, Christo struck out back-to-back Mavericks to strand another Omaha base runner.
The Huskers got one back in the fifth off a leadoff single from Casey Burnham and subsequent RBI groundout by Charlie Fischer. That extended Nebraska’s lead to 4-1 and Christo returned to the hill to defend the lead in the home half.
The right-hander faltered initially allowing a single and hitting a batter. But, Christo bounced back coaxing a grounder from Boeve and striking out Greise for a second time to strand two Mavericks in scoring position.
Christo posted two more strikeouts in the sixth. The reliever set a personal best 3 1/3 innings pitched and brought his strikeout total to seven. Most importantly, Christo had the Huskers ahead 4-1 entering the final three innings.
Nebraska logged another quiet inning at the dish before Christo began his fourth inning of work in the bottom of the seventh. A misplayed ball in left field led to a leadoff double and a sacrifice fly moments later brought Omaha within 4-2. Jake Bunz stepped in for Christo and the lefty retired Boeve with a flyout to left that ended the inning.
Carey delivered again in the eighth. His fourth two-out RBI of the night came via a single that drove in Swansen to make it 5-2 Huskers. Matthews added to that lead in the ninth when the shrotstop sent a nuke into the Aksarben skyline to make it 6-2. That marked the shortstop’s 15th home run of the season.
The Mavericks made it interesting in the final frame with a solo homer of their own from Matt Goetzmann. Omaha put runners on the corners with two outs and the Huskers turned to Shay Schanman for a save opportunity. Nebraska’s closer struck out Greise, who finished the game 0-for-5 with five strikeouts, and sealed the win.
Have a night Drew Christo
Christo had the best outing of his career on Tuesday and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
He completed four innings striking out eight while allowing only one earned run and issuing zero walks. Both the length of the outing and strikeout total were career highs. This on a night in which Nebraska desperately needed a pitcher to overperform expectations. Christo answered the call.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Bolt said. “It’s been coming for him. He’s such a good kid, such a hard worker, such a good teammate. You can always hear his voice in the dugout. His care factor is through the roof. So, to see him go out there and do what he did is amazing.”
Bolt pointed out that Christo has pieced together three solid outings. His combined line in that stretch features 6 1/3 innings 10 strikeouts, two walks and one earned run. It sets NU up well for Wednesday’s meeting with South Dakota State.
“He needed to have somethings go his way,” Bolt said. “He’s had a couple good outings in a row so he went out and took the mound with a little bit of confidence. I thought Hawkins did a nice job setting the tone early in that game for us. Drew (Christo) obviously just took it and ran with it.”
In a game that Bolt said was fairly similar to the Huskers’ two losses earlier this year, Christo made the difference.
“Christo was absolutely enormous and he saved us with some big punchouts in some big situations,” Bolt said.
The Huskers avert disaster, boost confidence
Losing tonight was not an option for Nebraska.
A season sweep at the hands of the Mavericks would mark the first in program history. Instead, the Huskers flipped the weekend script and came up with the competitive at-bats and two-out hits they had been missing.
“We needed to play with an edge and play with competitive nature for nine straight innings and championship intensity,” Bolt said. “Honestly, tonight’s game was not a whole lot different than the other games we played against them. I can’t wait to see the number of 105 mph balls that we hit that got caught against the fence You know, it looked like things were potentially not gonna go our way again.”
But despite some unlucky breaks, Nebraska’s bats stuck with it.
“I think at times you could roll your eyes and say, ‘Are you kidding me that you made that play?’ or ‘Are you kidding me that that ball didn’t go out of the park?’” Bolt said. “That’s a losing mentality and tonight it was just, ‘Hey, we’re a good hitting team.’ That’s gonna happen. You’re gonna line out. You’re gonna fly out and you’ve just gotta stick with it.”
Now the Huskers just have to carry that through to the rest of the four games they face this week.
What’s next for Nebraska baseball?
Nebraska faces another midweek foe on Wednesday in the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The Huskers are the hosts for this 6:02 p.m. first pitch and the game will be broadcasted on Nebraska Public Media.
The Big Ten slate continues this weekend as Nebraska hosts Minnesota. Friday’s first pitch is set for 7:02 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Saturday and Sunday’s contests will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.
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