Nebraska pulls ahead late to top Michigan baseball, 3-1

(Tracy Ko/Daily)
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By Ben Fidelman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 26, 2014

The first couple innings crawled along Saturday at Ray Fisher Stadium, and it looked like one run for each team was only the beginning.

But it ended up being a pitchers’ duel after all.

Michigan junior left-hander Trent Szkutnik and Nebraska right-hander Chance Sinclair settled down after rocky starts, and after both teams scored once in the first, the bats were silent until the end of the game.

At that point, the Cornhuskers (28-16 overall, 10-4 Big Ten) pulled away for a 3-1 win.

In the first inning, offense looked to be the story of the day. A leadoff Nebraska single in the top of the first came around to score, and Szkutnik had difficulty establishing himself early in the counts — the same issue the Wolverines (18-24, 8-9) had in Friday’s 6-4 loss.

Although he only gave up one run in the first inning, Szkutnik had a bigger problem moving forward — his pitch count. He threw 36 balls through just two innings.

Coming to the plate down 1-0 in the first inning, Michigan went to work right away with a leadoff single by sophomore shortstop Travis Maezes, who then moved to second on a wild pitch. The Wolverines tied the game at one when junior center fielder Jackson Glines connected with a 3-1 pitch, sending it up the middle for a run-scoring single.

After working through some trouble in the second inning, Szkutnik settled into a nice groove, allowing just two hits from the third through the sixth innings.

“Every time he goes out there, he has to settle in and have some pressure situations in the first few innings,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “When he’s had quality starts, he’s been able to battle through them and minimize the damage.

“He did a good job of getting out of trouble and settling in, finding his rhythm and locating his pitches. Once he did that, he started to pitch to contact and have quick innings and really give us a chance to get a lead. He pitched well enough to win, that’s for sure.”

When all was said and done, the scoreboard didn’t move from the second through seventh innings, and Szkutnik finished with 6.2 innings and allowed only one earned-run.

Once he departed, things took a turn for the worse for Michigan.

After the Wolverines narrowly avoid giving up runs in the seventh inning, the Cornhuskers put themselves in a position to score again in the eighth. Following a leadoff double, right-hander Mac Lozer came in for relief. Nebraska took a 3-1 lead after the freshman gave up a sacrifice fly and three more singles.

The Wolverines showed some life in the bottom of the eighth as they put together back-to-back one out singles from Glines and senior catcher Cole Martin that knocked Sinclair from the game. The Cornhusker reliever quieted the threat, inducing a popout from junior second baseman Eric Jacobson and striking out freshman outfielder Johnny Slater.

Nebraska closer Josh Roeder came on to finish things off in the ninth, sitting down the bottom three Michigan hitters 1-2-3.

The Wolverines have dropped two of the first three games in this weekend series, and looks to salvage the weekend Sunday at 3 p.m. in the finale.