MINNEAPOLIS — Nebraska’s run of excellent starting pitching continued Sunday. But the Huskers still took the seven-hour bus ride home from Siebert Field knowing they let one get away.
That “one” was the second game of the doubleheader, a 3-2 Minnesota victory. It was also a wild pitch — on a strikeout, no less — that allowed the decisive run to score as the Gophers topped NU in walk-off fashion for the second time in the series. Nebraska won the early game of the twinbill 10-1.
The Huskers (13-9, 4-2 Big Ten) received eight strong innings from Nate Fisher in the victory, then Reece Eddins allowed two runs in seven innings with a career-high seven strikeouts in the longest start of his NU career. But the offense that bashed a pair of home runs early vanished in the finale, going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Like Friday night, Nebraska had its chances in the top of the final inning before Minnesota (11-14, 5-1) earned the victory. With men at second and third with two outs, the Huskers struck out. The bottom half included a leadoff walk, one Gopher reaching after striking out on a passed ball and an intentional walk. Minnesota clinched the series when pinch hitter Cole McDevitt struck out swinging against Shay Schanaman but reached on a wild pitch that allowed a runner to score.
The teams traded a pair of runs in the first. Minnesota native Luke Roskam hammered a two-run double for NU, and Minnesota’s Jordan Kozicky answered with a two-run single minutes later.
Eddins cruised from there, scattering seven hits and a walk. Minnesota’s Joshua Culliver, an Omaha Creighton Prep graduate, allowed the two unearned runs and struck out six over five innings before the bullpen shut down the Huskers from there.
Nebraska began the day with a lopsided victory. Fisher, a senior left-hander, was efficient and effective across eight innings and 103 pitches. He allowed a homer to Kozicky to lead off the fifth inning, but he never let two Gophers on base at the same time while giving up four hits and tying a career high with seven strikeouts.
“The thing that he did really well is when we scored in an inning, he got a shutdown inning the next inning,” NU coach Darin Erstad said during his postgame radio interview. “He was as sharp as he was all game in those situations. That’s how you keep momentum and continue to build and that was a biggest part of what he did today.”
In the opener, the Huskers chased reigning Big Ten pitcher of the year and freshman of the year Patrick Fredrickson in the fourth inning and worked 10 walks overall. Roskam and Mojo Hagge bookended the contest with two-run homers to earn Erstad his 100th conference win.
Six Huskers drove in runs as they led 3-0 after the first inning and 6-0 after the fourth. Gunner Hellstrom added an RBI single in the opening inning and Joe Acker’s two-run hit highlighted the next rally. A two-run seventh featured Angelo Altavilla’s bases-loaded walk and Jaxon Hallmark’s RBI single.
“You want to set the tone in a doubleheader and show that you have energy,” Erstad said. “We took control of it right from the get.”
Nebraska has still won nine of its past 12 contests and returns to action Tuesday at Kansas State at 6 p.m. A three-game weekend home series against Purdue follows.
Creighton takes both games of Sunday’s doubleheader to sweep Illinois State series
Creighton had just watched its opponent launch a grand slam to build a 6-0 lead in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday afternoon. But nobody panicked.
There was no need for plotting of a comeback strategy. The Bluejays weren’t looking for a wake-up call or pep talk.
The Jays had plenty of time. They knew it. They were certain that the ominous start wouldn’t define the day.
That unflappable mentality helped Creighton erase its six-run deficit and clinch an 8-7 victory over Illinois State with a bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning.
Then Creighton (14-6) used a four-run third to take control of the second game, beating the Redbirds 7-3 to earn a series sweep.
“We’ve been through it,” junior Jake Holton said. “We’ve been down. We’ve been able to fight back. Especially (Sunday). We were calm. We knew that we were going to come back.”
Holton played a major part in that. He hit three home runs during the weekend — his two-run shot with two outs in the fifth inning of the first game Sunday helped CU snatch the momentum. The Jays took a 7-6 lead one inning later.
Holton broke a 1-1 tie and capped that third inning with a three-run shot in the nightcap.
But he wasn’t the only Bluejay who delivered Sunday. It seems to be a team-wide characteristic.
Creighton has faced a deficit in half of its 14 wins — including both victories over Illinois State (13-13) Sunday. It already has three ninth-inning comeback wins this year. Sunday’s six-run rally marked the Bluejays’ largest in two seasons.
“They feel like, as long as they’ve got some outs to play with, they’ve got a shot,” coach Ed Servais said. “I think some of those early wins made a big difference for these guys. They know they can score against anybody.”
The players point to the season’s opening weekend as the first confidence booster.
They trailed 10-6 after seven innings in the third game against Arkansas Little Rock. Then they rallied with three runs in the eighth, one in the ninth and two in the 11th.
“There’s never a doubt in our mind, and it goes back to the first series of the year,” junior reliever Jonah Smith said.
They showed that Sunday.
In the two games, CU’s bullpen combined to allow two earned runs and six hits during 11 1/3 innings. The Jays’ hitters worked 16 walks. They turned three double plays.
And they came through in the clutch.
In the opener, junior Isaac Collins led off the 11th inning with a double. He advanced to third base on junior Parker Upton’s sacrifice bunt. The Redbirds intentionally walked two batters to load the bases.
That set the stage for senior Jordan Hovey, who fouled off the first offering from left-hander Jacob Gilmore. He took four straight balls after that. The walk-off walk initiated a celebration — the Jays sprinted out of their dugout and converged near first base.
CU has now won seven of its last eight games. It plays UNO at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday at Werner Park.