Saturday was a busy day around the Big Ten, with 15 games spanning the country, from the foothills of the Appalachians all the way to Los Angeles. There wasn’t the drama that Friday possessed, but there were series clinched by Illinois and Nebraska, while Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers saw their weekend get underway after weather disrupted their planned weekend.
Here’s a rundown of how Saturday unfolded in the Big Ten.
Illinois (9-3) @ Grand Canyon (6-8), W, 5-2
Indiana (7-6) vs. #7 Oregon State (12-1), L, 8-3
Iowa (7-4) vs. Evansville (5-6), W, 18-7
Maryland (8-5) @ Stetson (6-8), L, 12-7
Michigan (9-3) @ USC (5-8), L, 4-1
Michigan State vs. Western Carolina (7-5), L, 6-4 (10)
Michigan State (3-10) 7 vs. Ohio State (7-6) 1
Minnesota (2-10) vs. San Diego (11-4), L, 6-5 (8)
Nebraska (6-6) @ #25 Baylor (9-4), W, 2-0
Northwestern (4-8) @ Missouri (8-5), L, 17-11
Penn State (8-3) @ Central Florida (10-4), L, 5-3
Purdue (2-10) vs. NJIT (6-3-1), L/W, 9-3 (10), 9-8
Rutgers (3-8) @ USC Upstate (6-8), L/W 1-0, 8-7
Unhittable Fisher leads Huskers to series win
It’s going to be an easy call for the Big Ten when announcing this weekend’s individual honors. The effort Nebraska senior left-handed Nate Fisher together wasn’t only the best of the weekend, but it might end up as the top pitching performance of the year at season’s end.
Leading Nebraska to a series-clinching 2-0 win at #25 Baylor, Fisher could not be touched. Pitching into the ninth, Fisher did not allow a hit on the afternoon. Pulled after hitting the first batter of the ninth, Fisher’s final line read: eight innings, zero hits, zero runs, one walk and six strikeouts. Most impressive was the efficiency at which Fisher pitched, needing only 84 pitches to pitch into the ninth. Baylor did record a hit off reliever Robbie Palkert to avoid the no-hitter, before freshman right-hander Colby Gomes closed the door with a one-out save.
Offensively, lone runs in the fourth and ninth were enough to help the Huskers reach .500. In a 2-for-4 day, Gomes recorded a one-out single, before coming around to score on a sacrifice fly by Luke Roskam. In between, as part of a 3-for-4 afternoon, a single by Gunner Hellstrom advanced Gomes to third from first. Nebraska’s third multi-hit effort was secured by freshman shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach, with a RBI-single, giving the game it’s final 2-0 score.
Overpowering Mokma helps Spartans salvage Saturday split
After being unable to secure a 4-2 lead after eight innings in a 6-4, 10-inning loss to Western Carolina, Michigan State head coach Jake Boss took no chances with his bullpen in a non-conference showdown against Ohio State.
Holding the Ohio State lineup in check all night, sophomore right-handed pitcher Mike Mokma pitched a complete-game against the Buckeyes, scattering seven hits, allowing just one run, and strikeout 11. Over 127 pitches, the second-year sophomore did not issue a walk.
“Mike was outstanding in every way tonight,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “Mike did a heck of a job when we really needed it. We had a disappointing loss in game one, and thankfully for us, Mike was ready to go out and play. He threw a lot of strikes tonight and was in command the whole way.”
“Mike Mokma was the story of the game,” Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said. “He commanded his fastball really well and pitched in good counts almost all night long.”
Every batter in the MSU lineup recorded at least one hit in support of Mokma, with a 3-for-4 effort from Bryce Kelley, and a 2-for-3, two-double evening from Royce Ando leading the way.
Noteworthy relief efforts litter Saturday’s slate
There were a few outstanding relief efforts on Saturday that saw pitchers do everything they could to keep their team in the game.
Pitching 4.1 innings, Illinois’ Sean Leland struck out eight, did not walk a batter and held Grand Canyon to one hit, in Illinois’ 5-2 win.
Although they fell short of a comeback win, Penn State saw Kyle Virbitsky pitch the final three innings against Central Florida, allowing just one hit and one run.
Ohio State freshman TJ Brock pitched three perfect innings against Michigan State, striking out five Spartans.
Purdue’s Austin Peterson pitched the final 5.2 innings, surrendering just two hits while punching out nine in Purdue’s 9-8 win over NJIT.
Purdue and Rutgers bounce back to end skids
Tough losses on Saturday afternoon extended losing streaks for Purdue and Rutgers. But with nightcaps of Saturday doubleheaders still to play, both clubs were able to shake off the defeat and head to bed on Saturday night with a victory in tow.
USC Uptate did just enough in collecting six hits to turn back Rutgers, 1-0 in game one of their twinbill. With offense at a premium, Rutgers’ four hits weren’t enough to support a strong effort on the mound by Harry Rutkowski. The sophomore pitched 5.2 innings, scattered five hits and struck out eight. A second one-run contest was played Saturday night between the two, with the Scarlet Knights coming out on top this time, 8-7, overcoming five errors in the process. Chris Brito and Tyler McNamara both collected RBI-singles in the ninth inning to halt a four-game slide.
A pair of 10th-inning errors helped NJIT bring 10 batters to the plate, as a six-run extra frame powered the Highlanders to an game one victory over the Boilermakers, 9-3. Purdue had used a three-run eighth to tie the game. The ability to score later in the game continued into Saturday’s finale, as Purdue scored in each of the final four frames to win 9-8, putting an end to a five-game skid. Trailing 7-3 at the stretch, a three-run seventh, and two-run eighth set the stage for a dramatic ninth. After NJIT knotted the game 8-8 in the top of the inning, back-to-back four-pitch walks put Tyler Powers and Evan Albrecht on. A bunt single from Skyler Hunter loaded the bases, before a third four-pitch walk of the inning, drawn by Cole McKenzie, gave Purdue a literal walk-off victory.
Hawkeyes collect the hits
Before the season starter, Iowa head coach Rick Heller felt his 2019 lineup would be the most consistent, 1-9. Absent were the big threats of years past like Jake Adams, Tyler Cropley, Mason McCoy and Robert Neustrom, but present was a collect of players Heller was confident all could do their job and come together as a potent force.
Saturday’s game against Evansville may have been exactly what Heller envision.
Taking on Evansville in Marian, Ill., Iowa pounded out a season-high 19 hits in their 18-7 romp. Supporting Cole McDonald’s six-inning, one-run effort, 10 Hawkeyes collected a hit, with first baseman Zeb Adreon leading the way, using three doubles to go 3-for-5 evening with four RBI. Izaya Fullard, Ben Norman and Matthew Sosa each collected a home run, as the Hawkeyes pounded out nine extra-base hits.
“I’m happy with how our team came out to play. They had great focus in all areas of the game, especially on offense. Zeb Adreon had a big night with four RBIs. Izaya Fullard had five RBIs. Matthew Sosa comes into the game and has three RBIs with some great at-bats. Up and down the lineup, guys put quality at-bats together. We did a job of executing when we needed to move runners.”
Oregon State still has the Big Ten’s number
With their 8-3 win over Indiana, Oregon State is now 7-0 against the Big Ten this year. The Beavers have twice beat Minnesota and swept Nebraska in a four-game series the second week of the season.
Unfortunately for the Big Ten, this is nothing new. Oregon State swept Minnesota in last year’s Corvallis Super Regional, and grabbed all four games, two apiece, against Nebraska and Ohio State last February. To find the last time a Big Ten team defeated Oregon State, you have to go back to Feb. 24, 2017, when the Buckeyes knocked off the Beavers, 6-1, in Surprise, Ariz. Since then, Oregon State has won 15 in a row.
Errors comes back to bite
Saturday wasn’t the finest day on the diamond for many conference teams, with poor showings in the field coming back to haunt teams in close losses. Here’s a look at whose defense let them down the hardest.
Indiana: three errors, two unearned runs.
Michigan State: two errors, two unearned runs, lost by two in 10 innings to WCU.
Maryland: three errors, four unearned runs.
Minnesota: four errors, two unearned runs, lost by one run.
Purdue: three errors in game one vs. NJIT, all six 10th inning runs were unearned.
Penn State’s three errors against Central Florida did not lead to any unearned runs.