Hellstrom lifts Huskers past Hoosiers with walk-off single
PISCATAWY, N.J. (KOLN) - Gunner Hellstrom was called on to pinch hit with the game tied, 6-6, in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday afternoon and the senior from Simi Valley, Calif., came through with a walk-off single that propelled Nebraska to 7-6 win over the Indiana Hoosiers. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and Nebraska is now 1-0 at the Piscataway Pod.
Spencer Schwellenbach, who earned the win on the mound, retired the Hoosiers in order in the top of the ninth to set up an opportunity for NU to notch its first walk-off win of the season. After Jaxon Hallmark struck out to start the bottom of the ninth, Schwellenbach drew a walk to put the winning run on base. Cam Chick followed with an infield single and with Schwellenbach running on the play he moved all the way to third to put runners on the corners. Head Coach Will Bolt called on Hellstrom, who had played in just six game this season, and he drove the second pitch he saw to the right-side of the infield, with Schwellenbach easily scoring the game-winning run.
It was a long afternoon at Bainton Field, as the teams had to sit through a 53-minute rain delay after the fourth inning. Nebraska jumped out to 4-1 lead through four, but after the delay Indiana struck back with four in the top of the fifth to take a 5-4 lead. The Huskers retook the lead in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of runs, but Indiana responded in the top of the eighth with a run to even the game, 6-6, before NU took victory for good in the bottom of the ninth.
The teams combined for just 13 hits on the day, including seven from the Huskers. Cam Chick and Cole Barr were the only two hitters with a pair of hits and Barr’s were big ones as his two home runs accounted for four of IU’s six runs. Indian’s defense committed five errors on the day, which allowed four unearned runs to score.
Nebraska’s Cade Povich was putting together one of his best starts of the year before the rain delay put an end to his day. Povich allowed just one run on one hit, a home run, and struck out nine over 4.0 innings. Povich had six strikeouts through two innings, including the first five batters of the game.
Indiana starter John Modugno also tossed 4.0 inning on Saturday and allowed four runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks, while striking out four.
The Huskers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a pair of hits and one of Indian’s five errors. Max Anderson led off with a single, Luke Roskam reached on an error and then Griffin Everitt moved both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. The move paid off as Mojo Hagge plated Anderson with a RBI groundout and Jack Steil followed with a RBI double.
Barr broke up Povich’s no hitter in the top of the fourth with a one-out solo home run. IU’s clean-up hitter sent a 1-2 offering over the right-center-field fence to cut NU’s lead to 2-1.
NU’s offense got the run back and added another in the bottom of the fourth on just one hit and another Indian error. Everitt got the offense going with a one-out walk, then stole second and Hagge followed with an infield single to put runners on the corners. Mondugno then had Hagge picked off at first, but threw wide of the bag, allowing Everitt to score and Hagge moved all the way to third. Steil stepped in and picked up his second RBI of the game with a successful squeeze bunt.
After the end of the fourth the game was put into a rain delay that lasted 53 minutes.
Following the delay, Koty Frank took the mound for the Huskers and Indiana jumped in front with just its second hit of the game. Frank walked the first two batters he faced, then got an out on a sacrifice bunt. Frank then issued another walk to load the bases before Grant Richardson delivered a sacrifice fly to center field. With two on and two down, Frank was in position to get out of the inning but Barr came calling again with his second home run of the game, this time a three-run shot, and Indiana took a 5-4 lead.
Roskam nearly tied the game in the bottom of the fifth with two outs when he took a 3-1 pitch from Nathan Stahl to center field, but Richardson made a leaping grab at the wall to rob Roskam of a game-tying homer.
Nebraska went down in order in the sixth and after Jake Bunz retired the Hoosiers in order in the top of the seventh the Husker offense retook the lead. Reliever Braydon Tucker took the mound to face the top of NU’s lineup and Joe Acker worked a leadoff walk. Hallmark then executed a bunt single and a throwing error by Tucker on the play put both runners in scoring position. Schwellenbach delivered a RBI single and then stole second to again put two runners in scoring position with no out. Tucker responded with a strikeout of Chick and then got into an eight-pitch battle with Anderson, with the NU freshman winning as he put Nebraska back in front with a 6-5 RBI groundout. Tucker got Roskam to groundout to end the inning, but the Huskers had retaken the lead.
The lead didn’t last long as walks came back to hurt the Huskers in the eighth. Bunz started the inning with a lineout, a walk and then a fielder’s choice that left a runner on first with two out. The Huskers brought in Schwellenbach, who gave up a double to Ethan Vecrumba that put two runners in scoring position. Schwellenbach then walked Collin Hopkins on four pitches to load the bases for No. 9 hitter Jeremy Houston. IU’s shortstop worked a full count and walked to tie the game 6-6. The IU lineup rolled over with the bases still loaded and Schwellenbach got out of the jam with a groundout.
NU got the go-ahead run on base in the bottom of the eighth when Steil was hit-by-pitch with two outs, but Acker then struck out to end the inning. After a rocky eighth, Schwellenbach dialed up consecutive strikeouts to start the ninth before getting a ground out off the bat of bar to setup Hellstrom’s ninth-inning heroics.
Nebraska is back at Bainton Field for a pair of games on Sunday. The Huskers and Hoosiers meet at 10 AM and then Nebraska plays Rutgers at 2 PM.
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