Five-run third inning powers Nebraska to first-round win over Minnesota in Big Ten tournament

Angelo Altavilla slid into third base and screamed to the sky. Spencer Schwellenbach delivered a big hit with a roaring partisan crowd on its feet. Shouts of "Go Big Red" echoed through TD Ameritrade Park.

Nebraska enjoyed moment after moment in its return to the Big Ten baseball tournament and Omaha. By the time the late-night affair Wednesday bled into early morning, the Huskers were celebrating an 8-2 win over Minnesota that marked a big first step in reversing a dismal recent history at the event.

Altavilla's two-run triple to the wall in right-center field keyed a three-run first inning. Schwellenbach's bases-loaded double to the same spot was part of a five-run third as the Huskers knocked Minnesota starter Patrick Fredrickson from the game. Both left-side infielders collected three RBIs in the nightcap of the tourney's opening day.

Most of the production was unnecessary for senior right-hander Matt Waldron, who gave Nebraska 7⅓ low-stress innings on 121 pitches. Waldron — a notable omission from all-conference teams this week — scattered six singles, walked none and struck out a career-high-tying nine. Outside of a plunked batter that led to Jordan Kozicky's RBI single in the second and a pair of singles in the eighth, the starter didn't allow a Gopher to reach second base.

The victory is just the program's second in nine tries at the postseason event dating back to 2014. It puts fifth-seeded Nebraska (29-20) into a Thursday winners' bracket game against No. 8 seed Iowa, which toppled top-seeded Indiana 4-2 earlier in the day. The matchup will likely be a rematch of starters from April 20, when the Hawkeyes beat NU 17-9.

With NU besting the defending league tourney champ, every lower seed won the opening day of the event for the first time since it expanded to eight teams in 2014.

The Huskers pounded Fredrickson on Wednesday much like they did in a 10-1 victory March 31. Mojo Hagge worked a nine-pitch walk to open the game, and a dropped ball in center field set the stage for Altavilla's triple before Joe Acker drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

NU batted around in the third. Altavilla smoked an RBI single to right-center on the seventh pitch of his at-bat. Gunner Hellstrom added a run-scoring single to left. Schwellenbach then capped the rally by hammering a two-out, full-count offering deep into the night to plate three.

Fredrickson lasted 2⅔ innings, allowing eight runs (six earned) along with four hits and two walks on 80 pitches.

Minnesota relievers retired 12 straight from there and 19 of the last 23 Huskers.

Waldron's nine punchouts put him in fourth place on NU's all-time strikeout list with 239. He passed Joba Chamberlain and John Lepley.

>> Get the full story later tonight on Omaha.com or in tomorrow's World-Herald

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