In front of more than 11,000 fans at TD Ameritrade Park on Thursday night, the Nebraska baseball team (39-18) improved to 2-0 at the Big Ten Tournament with a 3-2 victory over the Michigan State Spartans (30-24). With the win, the Huskers will have tomorrow off and will be back on the field at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning against either Iowa, Michigan or Indiana.
Junior lefty Aaron Bummer brought his best stuff to the park, as he allowed just four hits and two unearned runs over 7.0 innings of work, while striking out a career-high tying seven. Outside of the fifth inning when the Huskers committed a pair of errors that turned into two unearned runs, Bummer never allowed more than one base runner in an inning, including no one past second base. Bummer picked up his seventh win of the season in the victory, while Zach Hirsch earned his fourth save of the year with 2.0 innings of scoreless relief.
The top of Nebraska’s lineup combined to go 6-for-14 at the plate with three RBIs, including two hits, two RBIs and a double from freshman Ryan Boldt. Along with Boldt, four other Huskers notched a double on the night, including the eventual game-winning RBI double by Michael Pritchard in the seventh. Thursday night marked the fifth time this season the Huskers have had at least five doubles in a game, while their last five-double game came in their series opener at Michigan on April 25.
With a 10-to-5 advantage in hits, the Huskers notched their 29th double-digit hit game of the year and improved to 30-1 on the year when out-hitting their opponent.
Nebraska took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Steven Reveles led off with his 11th double of the season and Boldt followed with a double on the ninth pitch of his at-bat for his 28th RBI of the year. Jake Placzek then laid down a bunt single and the Huskers had runners on the corners with no outs for their 3-4-5 hitters. MSU starter Cam Vieaux would only allow one run in the inning though, as he escaped major damage by striking out Pritchard, getting Pat Kelly to pop up and Blake Headley to line out.
After Bummer set the Spartans down in order in the bottom of the third, Tanner Lubach nearly notched the Huskers first ever home run at TD Ameritrade Park, but the 1-2 offering from Vieaux hit the top of the left field wall and Lubach had to settle for a leadoff double. Austin Darby moved Lubach to third base with a sacrifice bunt, but then Vieaux struck out Ben Miller looking on a full-count. With a runner still on third and two down, Reveles worked a walk that rolled over the Husker lineup and Boldt delivered again with a RBI single that put NU ahead 2-0.
With Bummer allowing just two hits through the first four innings, Nebraska’s defense let down its pitcher in the fifth by committing two errors and the Spartans took advantage with a pair of unearned runs to tie the game. Ryan Richardson led off the frame and reached on a throwing error by Placzek. Richardson later scored on a one-out single by Justin Hovis, who then moved to second on the play on a throwing error by Headley. After back-to-back walks loaded the bases, Blaise Salter hit what would have been the third out of the inning, but instead it was a sacrifice fly that scored Hovis. With the go-ahead run at third base, Bummer ended the inning on his own with his fifth strikeout of the night.
Nebraska’s offense got the lead back for Bummer in the seventh with its fourth and fifth doubles of the game on consecutive pitches. Placzek ripped the first pitch he saw into the left-field gap and then Pritchard followed with his 20th double of the year to put the Huskers ahead 3-2.
With his 20th double of the season, Pritchard became the eighth NU hitter to notch 20 or doubles in a season since 2000.
Holding a one-run lead, Bummer toed the rubber in the seventh and sat the Spartans down in order, including his seventh strikeout of the night to end the inning.
The Spartans made a late rally in the eighth when they got a two-out single and a walk to put the tying run in scoring position, but Hirsch got Richardson to groundout 6-3 to end the threat. The senior lefty then sat down MSU in order in the ninth to secure the win.
Nebraska continues through the winners bracket and will play on the Big Ten Network at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.