Nebraska’s six-run seventh inning helps clinch series opener with Nevada

LINCOLN — With nothing to lose to open a nonconference weekend of games, Nebraska finally started a series with a win.

The script began as many others have for the sub-.500 Huskers this year. A sun-aided, wind-blown double extended a two-run first inning and Nevada led be three runs before second base fell into shadows at Haymarket Park. Reece Eddins, making his first career start in his 43rd collegiate appearance, lasted just two innings as Nebraska dove into its bullpen.

But the relief corps held up, and Nebraska responded to a go-ahead Wolf Pack home run in the top of the seventh with six runs of its own in the bottom half en route to a 9-5 win Thursday night. The victory was Nebraska’s second in 11 series openers this spring.

“It’s so much more fun when we win,” said Jesse Wilkening, who had three hits. “Coming back was awesome. That big — what — six-run inning? That was pretty cool. It was fun. Got in good counts, good pitches to swing at, laid off a lot of balls down. That played a huge part.”

Nebraska (18-22) had been 3-18 when trailing after six innings but turned a 4-3 deficit into a sizable cushion on four hits and four walks against four Nevada pitchers.

Wilkening tied the game with an RBI single and Zac Repinski put NU in front with a bases-loaded walk. Jaxon Hallmark (RBI single), Angelo Altavilla (bases-loaded walk) and Mojo Hagge (two-run double) also added to the offensive outburst.

Paul Tillotson worked 11⁄3 innings and allowed a run before giving way to closer Jake Hohensee, who earned his eighth save when the Wolf Pack flew into an 8-4-3 double play to end the game.

“For us, getting a win, it’s going to be important for us to come back and show we can do it two more times,” said Mike Waldron, who was the winning pitcher with five innings of two-run relief. “But for right now, yeah, it’s big.”

Nebraska managed only a walk in the first three innings against Nevada left-handed starter Dalton Gomez before scoring three runs in the fourth. The Huskers scored on a fielder’s choice double play, then a shortstop fielding error and a Hallmark liner off Gomez’s ankle set up Carter Cross, a freshman making his fourth career start, for an RBI single to right. A wild pitch brought home Hallmark to tie the game 3-3.

NU coach Darin Erstad shook up the lineup for a second straight game. Leading hitter Scott Schreiber batted first, while Wilkening was slotted second for just the second time this season and freshman catcher Gunner Hellstrom made his debut at No. 3. Against a lefty, southpaw Mojo Hagge hit ninth for the second time.

“I’m just trying to get our best guys as many at-bats as possible, and that’s it,” Erstad said. “Might as well just roll our best guys and see what happens.”

A bloop double in the first helped Nevada (21-17) score twice. The fluke play — off the bat of cleanup hitter Mike Echavia with two outs — chased in one run and kept the inning going for Dillan Shrum, who guided an RBI single to left.

Eddins surrendered four hits and two runs on 41 pitches in an outing that NU coaches wanted to cap at 50. The Wolf Pack greeted Mike Waldron with a single, a sacrifice bunt and Grant Fennell’s RBI to start the third to boost their lead to 3-0.

But Waldron settled down, retiring 10 in a row and 12 of 13 before Nevada leadoff hitter Joshua Zamora smashed a line drive solo homer into the wind to left to put the Wolf Pack back up 4-3.

The Huskers responded by sending 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the seventh en route to their fifth win in the last 16 games. The series resumes Friday at 6:35 p.m. for Shane Komine bobblehead night.

“We want to play for each other and kind of max out what we can do and really just compete to our best abilities and leave it all on the field,” Waldron said.

The junior from Omaha Westside was effective for a sixth straight outing, working through his trend of struggling against batters with two strikes by retiring six of eight in that situation Thursday. His brother, Matt Waldron, will start Friday before Luis Alvarado throws to a close a series for the first time Saturday.

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