ROUND ROCK, Tex.–(NU Athletics Mar. 5)– Nebraska had a one-run lead three different times in Friday’s season-opener against the Purdue Boilermakers, but fell 6-5 on a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth off the bat of Zac Fascia. The loss spoiled a career-day from Joe Acker at the plate and a stellar relief outing from Braxton Bragg.
With the game tied 5-5 headed to the ninth, the Huskers got their leadoff man aboard following a single by Griffin Everitt, but Jackson Smeltz responded with three straight strikeouts to setup a ninth-winning win for Purdue. Max Schreiber retired Purdue leadoff hitter in the bottom of the frame, but then gave up a single, a walk and hit a batter to load the bases. Fascia came through with a sac fly on a 1-2 pitch for the game winner.
Nebraska out-hit the Boilermakers on the day, 15-11, including home runs from Acker, Max Anderson and Cam Chick. Acker matched a career high with three hits and was a triple shy of the cycle. The senior co-captain tied the game 3-3 in the fourth with a two-run home run and put the Huskers ahead, 5-4, in the eighth when he scored on a passed ball.
Anderson, a freshman from Millard West, totaled three hits in his Husker debut and became the first Husker to hit a home in his first career at-bat since Jed Hanson achieved the feat against Northern Colorado in 2009.
Bragg struck out a career-high six batters over a career-high 4.0 innings of relief, allowing one unearned run on two hits.
Junior Cade Povich lasted just 3.0 innings in his first start of 2021 after going at least 4.0 innings in all four starts in 2020. Povich allowed three runs on six hit and struck out four, but also issued four walks. Purdue starter Trent Johnson lasted 5.0 innings and struck out seven, allowing four runs on 10 hits and one walk.
After Povich got out of an early bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first with a strike out of Fascia, Anderson put the first run of the season on the board with a solo home run to right field. Johnson responded with consecutive outs before Logan Foster got his first hit as a Husker with a single to right field. Acker then delivered a two-out double to put two runners in scoring position, but Johnson struck out Jaxon Hallmark swinging to end the top of the second.
Povich kept the Boilermakers off the board through two innings before giving up three runs in the third. Ben Nisle and Miles Simington produced back-to-back singles to start a rally before Povich got a groundout to put himself in position to escape the inning unscathed. Purdue put the pressure back on with a two-out walk from Fascia to load the bases, and then quickly put three runs on the board with back-to-back singles from Mason Gavre and Kyle LaPlante before Povich ended the inning with a fly out.
Trailing 3-1, Nebraska responded in the top of the fourth with two runs off the bat of Acker. Leighton Banjoff led up with a single and two batters later Acker launched a 2-2 offering over the right-field wall, his third career home run. The Huskers then took the lead in the fifth with their third home run of the day, as Cam Chick hit put a solo shot over right field wall.
Bragg, who took over in the fourth inning and stranded a runner, put the Boilermakers away in order in both the fifth and sixth innings. The sophomore right hander notched his fifth strikeout of the game to start the seventh before Nisle tripled down the right-field line to put the tying run 90 feet away. Bragg responded with a pop out and had pinch-hitter Jeremy Schork in a 1-2 count when a passed ball allowed Nisle to score and tie the game, 4-4. On the next pitch Bragg struck out Schork to end the inning.
Purdue quickly gave the lead back to NU in the top of the eighth. Acker led off with a single and moved into scoring positon on a sacrifice bunt by Hallmark. Acker then took third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. Nebraska would put two on later in the inning following a two-out single from Spencer Schwellenbach and a walk by Chick before Landon Weins came in from the bullpen and got a fly out to keep it a one-run game, 5-4.
Schreiber took over on the mound to start the bottom of the eighth and Fascia welcomed him with a leadoff double. Schreiber got a groundout but then gave up an infield single that plated Fascia, tying the game 5-5. Schreiber kept the go-ahead run from scoring, sending the game to the ninth where the Boilermakers struck last for the win on opening day.
Nebraska and Purdue meet for a doubleheader tomorrow at Dell Diamond Stadium, with game one slated for 10 AM and game two taking place roughly 45 minutes after the end of game one. The first game will be seven innings and game two will be nine innings. Fans can watch the game on BTN+