Two critical video reviews went against Nebraska and Ohio State's depleted pitching corps rose up in a sea of red to stymie the Huskers in a 3-1 victory Sunday afternoon for the Big Ten tournament title.
The Buckeyes produced a run off surprise NU starter Matt Waldron in the first and their own pitcher, Griffan Smith, was dominant across 5⅔ innings. They added another on challenged call at home play in the fourth to go ahead for good.
Ohio State, with an RPI of 136 entering the day, needed the victory to clinch its third NCAA regional berth in four seasons. Nebraska was already assured of playing into next weekend.
But the Huskers had their chances to claim their first league tournament title since winning the Big 12 in 2005. In front of a roaring partisan crowd of 17,503 — the second-largest crowd to watch a college baseball game this season — they fell just short.
Nebraska brought back Waldron on four days' rest to start the tournament finale after the senior threw 121 pitches Wednesday. On what would normally be his "bullpen day," the Omaha Westside grad allowed a leadoff single and walk before Brady Cherry grounded an 0-2 offering into left field for an RBI single.
But the normal Friday ace kept the Buckeyes off the board over three innings from there. His brother, Mike Waldron, relieved him to start the frouth and promptly gave up a pair of first-pitch singles before giving way to Grand Island freshman Shay Schanaman.
The righty nearly wiggled out of the inherited jam unscathed. He worked a popout, then No. 9 hitter Nick Erwin sent a ball to right fielder Aaron Palensky, who appeared to throw out a tagging Buckeye at home plate. But video review overturned the call, as the swipe by catcher Luke Roskam missed the sliding runner, and pushed the OSU lead to 2-0.
Ohio State and its depleted bullpen, meanwhile, received a major boost from regular Sunday starter Smith. The sophomore left-hander worked quickly and efficiently three days after throwing 110 pitches against Maryland, surrendering only a two-out baserunner in four of his first five innings.
A one-out fielding error by shortstop Zach Dezenzo opened the door for NU in the sixth. Angelo Altavilla and Spencer Schwellenbach worked two-out walks, prompting OSU to return to closer Andrew Magno. Magno — who threw 32 pitches hours earlier in the semifinal win over Minnesota — walked pinch-hitter Gunner Hellstrom to force in a run and halve the Buckeye lead at 2-1. Alex Henwood flew out to center to end the rally.
Smith finished with 89 pitches Sunday, allowing four walks and two hits while striking out six.
Nebraska again threatened in the seventh when Joe Acker began with a single and Colby Gomes walked. But after a sacrifice, Cam Chick struck out and Palensky was called out on a bang-bang play at first base that was upheld by video review.
Schanaman kept the Huskers close by authoring a career-long four-plus frames. The righty handcuffed the Buckeyes until the eighth, when they managed a walk and single. A Conner Pohl sac fly off closer Colby Gomes pushed the OSU lead to 3-1.
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