The Nebraska baseball team (29-20) pounced early in an 8-2 win over Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at TD Ameritrade Park on Wednesday night.
The Huskers plated three runs in the first inning and five runs in the third inning.Starting pitcher Matt Waldron, making his 12th start of the season, went 7.1 innings and matched his career high with nine strikeouts. Waldron has 239 strikeouts in his career, which puts him in fourth place on Nebraska’s career strikeouts list. Mike Waldron and Robbie Palkert each came in for shutout relief appearances.
In the opening frame, the Huskers plated three runs to take the early lead. Mojo Hagge drew a leadoff walk before Aaron Palensky reached on a one-out error. Angelo Altavilla drove in both of them with a two-run triple, his 150th career hit. Altavilla scored on Joe Acker’s sacrifice fly before a strikeout ended the inning. In the bottom of the first, Waldron struck out the side.
NU went down 1-2-3 in the top of the second with three groundouts. Minnesota scored one run in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 3-1.
In the top of the third, Nebraska added five runs to extend its lead to 8-1. Cam Chick was hit-by-pitch and stole second after the first out was recorded. With two outs, Altavilla added to his RBI total by driving in Chick with a base hit. Altavilla stole second before Acker drew a walk. Gunner Hellstrom drove in one run with an RBI single before Alex Henwood was hit-by-pitch. Spencer Schwellenbach crushed a three-run double to send the TD Ameritrade Park crowd into a frenzy. A groundout ended NU’s five-run, three-hit frame. Minnesota managed one hit in a scoreless bottom of the third. Waldron recorded two strikeouts during the inning.
The Huskers went down in order in the top of the fourth. Waldron retired all three Gopher batters in the bottom of the fourth.
NU went down 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth with a flyout, groundout and strikeout. In the bottom of the fifth, Minnesota went down in order, as Waldron recorded his seventh strikeout of the night.
For the third consecutive inning, Nebraska’s offense was shut down, as the Huskers were retired 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. The Gophers managed one hit in the bottom of the sixth, but left the runner stranded.
In the top of the seventh, Palensky and Altavilla drew back-to-back two-out walks, but a flyout left them stranded in a scoreless frame.
Minnesota managed a hit in the bottom of the seventh, but a double play followed by a flyout left the runner on base.
Schwellenbach was hit-by-pitch in the top of the eighth, but left stranded in a scoreless inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Minnesota scored one run to cut the score to 8-2, but left the bases loaded.
In the ninth, Cam Chick reached on an error and stole second, but was left stranded after back-to-back strikeouts. The Gophers went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
The Huskers face No. 8 seed Iowa in the winners bracket game on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 9:03 p.m. (CT) on the Big Ten Network.