Less than 24 hours after celebrating a run-rule victory, Nebraska nearly lost in the same fashion Saturday morning as it fell to Michigan 18-8 in a Big Ten tournament semifinal.
Now the Huskers are tasked with putting it behind them in time for the elimination-game rematch later this evening following the other semi between Minnesota and Ohio State. A spot in Sunday's 1 p.m. championship is on the line.
The four-hour affair surely felt longer than that for fifth-seeded NU, which fell behind 3-0 before recording an out as part of a seven-run opening frame. Second-seeded Michigan (41-17) pounded out 19 overall hits – 16 of them singles – and chased senior starter Reece Eddins after the first two batters reached base in the second.
Nebraska (30-21) plated a pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth stanzas to draw within 9-4 before the Wolverines hammered the back of the Husker bullpen in a six-run sixth to bring the 10-run mercy rule into range. The Huskers also committed a season-high six errors.
Eddins endured the worst appearance of his career – and Big Red allowed its second most runs in an inning this year – in a nightmarish first frame. Five of Michigan's eight hits in the rally drove in runs, with two-RBI singles from Jimmy Kerr and Jordan Nwogu serving as big blows.
Eddins threw just 45 pitches in 1-plus inning, allowing nine hits and eight runs while walking one. In a start against Michigan earlier this month, the righty logged five innings and gave up five runs.
Senior Ethan Frazier followed in relief with a career-long outing of 4 1/3 innings and was charged with two runs (one earned). Nebraska used five pitchers in all, though none who were likely to pitch in a closer game later Saturday.
The big lead took the pressure off Michigan freshman Walker Cleveland in his second career start. After three scoreless frames, the Huskers got to him in the fourth with a pair of RBI groundouts from Joe Acker and Colby Gomes. Aaron Palensky and Spencer Schwellenbach launched back-to-back solo homers in the fifth, marking the second time in the nine-year history of TD Ameritrade Park that teammates homered in consecutive at-bats.
Michigan countered in the sixth with six runs puctuated by a Nwogu two-run blast to left. NU used three relievers in the frame as it fell behind 15-4.
Nebraska pulled out of run-rule territory in the bottom half on a Chick RBI double and Angelo Altavilla two-run single. Michigan extended its nine-run lead to 11 in the top of the ninth before NU's Carter Cross tacked on an RBI single.
» Get the full story later today on Omaha.com or in tomorrow's edition of The World-Herald