MINNEAPOLIS — A pitchers duel extended into extra innings before Eli Wilson cranked a three-run walk-off home run to help Minnesota beat Nebraska 5-2 Friday night.
NU starter Matt Waldron and his counterpart, Max Meyer, each threw eight stellar innings before the bullpens took over in a battle of Big Ten unbeatens. The Huskers put runners at second and third base with one out in the top of the 10th, then struck out twice. A leadoff single and intentional walk in the bottom half set the stage for Minnesota’s No. 2 hitter, who sent a 1-1 Robbie Palkert offering over the wall in left.
Nebraska (12-8, 3-1 Big Ten) saw its six-game winning streak come to an end while Minnesota (10-13, 4-0) claimed its fifth straight win. The series between the past two Big Ten regular-season champs resumes Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The teams will play a doubleheader after Saturday’s game was postponed due to weather.
Against one of the nation’s best arms in Meyer, Mojo Hagge led off the game with a solo shot to right, his first of the spring. But scoring chances were precious from there, with a 1-6-3 double play dousing a chance in the fourth. Meyer struck out 11 on 111 pitches as the converted All-America closer befuddled hitters with fastball command — one walk — and an electric slider.
But Waldron continued his outstanding start to his senior year, following last week’s two-hitter by matching Meyer throughout. The Omaha Westside grad struck out seven and walked one while scattering eight hits on 104 pitches.
“They did not chase as much today as we were hoping,” coach Darin Erstad said during his postgame radio interview. “That being said, Matt pitched well enough for us to win. There’s no consolation prizes here, participation ribbons for going against an All-American. We had a chance to beat him and we let him off the hook.”
Minnesota tied the game 1-1 in the third on a Wilson RBI single, and went ahead in the fifth when No. 9 hitter Drew Hmielewski followed a Riley Smith double with a single.
The Huskers pulled even in the seventh, thanks to some aggressive play. Joe Acker reached on an infield single, stole second and came home on a Cam Chick hit with two outs. Third base coach Mike Kirby sent Chick, who likely would have been out if not for a bobbled cutoff at third base.
“You’re not going to get a lot of chances against them,” Erstad said. “Both teams had some chances and they came out with one bigger play (than) us there at the end. But it was a good college baseball game; it could have went either way.”
The Huskers struck out 17 times while drawing one walk. Acker and Chick logged two-hit days. For Minnesota, Wilson finished 4 for 5 with four RBIs.
Nebraska at Minnesota
When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday (DH)
Radio: KNCY 1600 AM, 105.5 FM in Nebraska City