You’re going to win a lot of baseball games when you get just one hit, and that’s all Nebraska could muster against the Islanders’ pitchers as they lost 4-1 today at Haymarket Park.
Texas A&M — Corpus Christi starter Hayden Thomas went 7.2 innings while reliever Zach Garcia finished the game and the Cornhuskers. Thomas, a right-handed junior threw 112 pitches and seemed to get strong as the game progressed with a half dozen 95 mph pitches in his final inning. Cornhusker’s hitters couldn’t catch up.
Going into Game 2 of the series, Nebraska starter Shay Schanaman knew he was going to have to attack the strike zone, be efficient and swallow a few innings. The Grand Island product was working on a short rest and was on a pitching count, so it was imperative that he didn’t go into long innings.
Attacking the strike zone is what he did as his first pitch of the game was laced for a brace by first islander Steven Rivera-Chijin. He then advanced to third two pitches later on a sacrifice fly to the right. Two pitches later, when center fielder Brendan Ryan hit a deep foul ball that was caught on the line by Leighton Banjoff, Rivera-Chijin beat the pitch to home plate to put the game’s first inning on the board.
After that first inning, the game turned into a pitching battle until the seventh inning, with Schanaman working fast and, for the most part, unbalancing the island hitters. He had five strikeouts, allowed three hits and walked three, getting the job done. However, Cornhusker’s attack brought him no help.
While their first hit didn’t come until the seventh inning, the Cornhuskers got on base. Thomas walked seven, hit two batters, and the batters reached base on a few fielding picks and an error. Nebraska looked like they had something to do in the fourth inning when Bryce Matthew tied and stole second place before Garrett Anglim also walked. However, Colby Gomes dug in a double play and then Cam Chick flew to the wall in the middle, ending the threat.
The seventh inning proved to be the turning point of the game. Up top, an error by Bryce Matthews to start the inning gave the Islanders their second run and Shay Schanaman was called out three batters later.
Freshman Chandler Benson took the mound and won the final with Nebraska down 2-0.
It appeared the Cornhuskers might have some life when leadoff batter Garrett Anglim hit hard from the left side. The red-clad crowd came to life as Colby Gomes came to home plate. Gomes made his first start in a number of games after suffering a foot injury but was not up to the challenge this time as he took big hacks and hit as Thomas seemed to throw every pitch stronger than the previous one.
Cam Chick, now hitting under 0.150, walked, once again placing the runners in first and second place. That brought freshman Gabe Swansen, Iowa’s Gatorade Player of the Year last year, to the plate to pinch the blow for Efry Cervantes. Swansen hit a rocket on the first pitch that blasted fans out of their seats to catch the top blades of grass by left fielder Josh Caraway.
Garrett Anglim must have been convinced the ball hit the ground as it took off and was about third when Caraway got up and fed the ball back to the second baseman to double him.
In the top of the 8th, the Islanders loaded the bases on Benson, bringing Corbin Hawkins in with one out. Hawkins, another freshman put in a very difficult situation, came out of it with flying colors. The right-handed sub pitcher landed a strike and then prompted DH Trey Jones to hit a ground ball that was too short.
Matthews, who had moved from second base the previous inning, made up for his previous mistake with a sterling play behind second, diving and gloved the ball before getting up and pinching Jones an eyelash early.
Keeping the Islanders off the board and Matthews’ sparkling play looked like it must have started a fire under Cornhusker’s attack. Last night’s hero Leighton Banjoff started the inning with a walk and Max Anderson reached on a third baseman’s error. Core Jackson made a nice sacrificial bunt to move the runners to second and third place. With one out, Griffin Everitt was intentionally walked to load the bases.
With Thomas still on the mound, cleanup hitter Bryce Matthews came to home plate. Unfortunately, it appeared at second baseman. With two outs, Garrett Anglim came to the plate and was quickly beaten by Thomas, forcing Banjoff to go home with the first inning of the Nebraska game.
The Islanders went to their bullpen and brought in left-hander Zach Garcia, and Colby Gomes was at the plate for a second chance in the game to drive in the runs. After seeing Hayden Thomas consistently throwing fastballs between 92 and 95 mph, Garcia threw breaking pitches at 70 and 78 mph at Gomes. His heroic swings are not linked and for the second time in the game, the young man from Millard falls in swing.
With a 2-1 lead, Texas A&M-Corpus-Christi added some insurance runs in the top of the ninth against Emmett Olson, before Nebraska fell down the order on their side of the ninth.
At the end of the day, the Texas team won 4-1 over a Nebraska team that could only collect one hit. The Islanders did a stellar job of taking the lead when they put runners on base, moving them, and getting the hits on time.
The roller coaster ride continues for Nebraska as both teams return for Game 3 on Sunday. The first pitch is at 12:05 p.m.