Huskers Top UConn in NCAA Regional Opener
Oklahoma City, Okla. – The Nebraska baseball team (32-22) compiled 13 hits and used a four-run third inning to defeat UConn, 8-5, in the opening game of the NCAA Oklahoma City Regional at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark on Friday afternoon. It marked the first time since 2008 that Nebraska won its first game of the NCAA Tournament, and the first time since 2014 the Huskers won any NCAA Tournament game.
Senior left-handed pitcher Nate Fisher, making his 15th start of the season, went 4.2 innings and allowed five runs. Robbie Palkert earned the win by throwing 3.1 scoreless innings and recorded four strikeouts. Colby Gomes earned his team-high 13th save of the season, putting him in a tie for third on Nebraska’s single-season saves list with Jake Hohensee (2018), Chad Luensmann (2016) and Brett Jensen (2006).
In the top of the first, Cam Chick reached on a one-out error, but a strikeout and fielder’s choice ended the inning. In the bottom of the first, UConn plated two runs on three hits to take the early lead. Each of the first two batters singled before a bunt pop-up double play. Pat Winkel hit a two-run home run to put the Huskies on the board.
Angelo Altavilla smashed a leadoff home run in the top of the second for NU’s first run of the game. Each of the next three Husker batters produced outs. In the bottom of the second, Connecticut added two runs to take a 4-1 lead, using three hits in the frame.
Nebraska scored four runs in the top of the third to take a 5-4 lead. Each of the first six batters reached base, as Gomes, Jaxon Hallmark and Cam Chick each singled before Aaron Palensky walked to load the bases. Spencer Schwellenbach drove in one run with an RBI single before Altavilla did the same. A double play and strikeout left one runner on base. The Huskies managed two hits during the bottom of the third, but couldn’t score either runner.
In the top of the fourth, Mojo Hagge reached on a leadoff bunt single, but was left stranded after three consecutive strikeouts. UConn managed a pair of hits in the bottom of the fourth, but the score remained a 5-4 lead for the Big Red.
NU scored one run in the top of the fifth to extend its lead to 6-4. Schwellenbach reached on a one-out walk before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Gunner Hellstrom drove him in with an RBI single. The Huskies scored one run in the bottom of the fifth to trim the deficit to 6-5. UConn compiled three hits during the frame.
The Huskers added a run in the top of the sixth to make it 7-5. Hagge drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch before stealing third. Chick was hit-by-pitch to put runners on the corners before Palensky’s RBI single. Schwellenbach walked to load the bases but a strikeout ended the inning. In the bottom of the sixth, UConn managed a pair of two-out singles and the runners made it to second and third before a groundout left them stranded.
In the top of the seventh, Hellstrom singled, but was left on base after three straight strikeouts. Connecticut had two baserunners in the bottom of the seventh via base hits, but they were both left stranded in a scoreless inning for the Huskies.
The Huskers went down in order in the top of the eighth. UConn left a runner stranded on third after he hit a one-out double in the bottom of the eighth.
NU added an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Schwellenbach laced a leadoff single before advancing to second on Hellstrom’s one-out single. Joe Acker smacked an RBI double to drive in one run before back-to-back outs ended the inning. UConn managed one hit in a scoreless bottom of the ninth.
The Huskers will play on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CT) against No. 9 Oklahoma State.