OKLAHOMA CITY – Of all the ways to play a baseball game, Nebraska chose a strange one on Friday.
But the result is what matters. And for the Huskers, that meant their first victory in the NCAA Tournament since 2014.
The Nebraska hitters struck out 16 times, the NU pitchers allowed 19 hits, and the Huskers recovered from a three-run deficit in the second inning and ended a five-game losing streak in the NCAA regional game with a win of 8-5 over Connecticut at Chickasaw Bricktown Baseball Stadium.
The triumph was Nebraska's first regional first-round victory since 2008.
"It's a fairly standard problem for this version of the Huskers," said UN coach Darin Erstad afterwards. "When you think something is going to happen, the opposite happens."
In the first 25 minutes of Friday's game, Nebraska (32-22) stayed behind 2-0 and saw second baseman Alex Henwood leave the competition after throwing a shot directly from his face while covering first base in a touch of UConn. Henwood, who has battled a shoulder injury for most of the season, lost a tooth and some blood, and went to a local dentist for a repair job before returning to the dugout.
At the end of the game, the Huskies (36-24) had multiple hits in each of the first seven innings on their way to 19 hits against Nebraska starter Nate Fisher and reliever Robbie Palkert.
Offensively, Nebraska's 16 strikeouts were a high season.
But the Huskers won. The last regional victory of the program had been on Binghamton in 2014, also at a regional headquarters in Oklahoma State. The last time Nebraska won a regional first-round game was a 13-10 victory over Eastern Illinois at Haymarket Park in 2008.
Nebraska had 0-2 in regional appearances in 2016 and 2017.
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"I know that Angelo (Altavilla) and I have been in three regionals, and until now we were 0-4, and we were angry, I think we all put that on our backs, and we said:" We're done with this, " said Palkert. "We hate to see in the news … Darin Erstad can not win a regional game." That's not true, this team can win baseball games, this team can win a regional. "
A few pitches after Henwood left, UConn made it to the top early when new batter Pat Winkel delivered a two-run homer in right field. The inning started with consecutive singles before the UConn hitter, Michael Woodworth, created a touch that became a double play.
That would become a subject for Fisher. The senior allowed 13 career hits in 4 2/3 innings, including five extra-base hits.
But Yutan's southpaw also saw his defender fold three double plays behind him to help limit the damage. Nebraska played a defense without errors, and the NU pitching team did not take any walks. Fourth double play of NU came in the ninth when Colby Gomes closed things.
"They can add 18 or 19 hits, but it does not matter if there's no one else at the base, they can hit batter singles broken in half, or singles on six holes, or they can break the balls." Wall. But if there is no one at the base, it does not matter, "said Palkert." So I continue with the next release. You can not be discouraged if you give up a blow. "
"It's all about that execution column, we're at the top, so that's what it's about."
After the Huskies scored two more runs in the second with three more hits, Nebraska went to work on top of the third.
The No. 9 batter Gomes started with a single, the first of three consecutive singles from NU to start the inning. After Aaron Palensky walked and Spencer Schwellenbach delivered the fourth stroke of the Nebraska inning, Altavilla followed his second-inning homer with a ball that traveled approximately one tenth to reach the fourth career of the Huskers' entry and a 5-5 Four. lead.
Nebraska added individual races in the fifth, sixth and ninth innings to keep UConn at bay.
In front of lefty Mason Feole, an All-American pre-season player, Nebraska finished with 13 hits of his own. Gunner Hellstrom went 3-for-5, while Altavilla and Schwellenbach had two hits each.
Nebraska will face Oklahoma State, the national favorite No. 9 or Harvard in Saturday's regional semifinals in a game that will start at 7 p.m. The Cowboys and Crimson had to start at 6 p.m. Friday.