OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska’s batters settled into a sweet spot early on against Iowa in the Big Ten baseball tournament Friday.
Meanwhile, Iowa’s pitchers were never truly able to settle into any kind of a groove.
Nebraska pounded out 14 hits and drew 10 walks, leading to a 11-1, eight-inning win.
Iowa fell into an elimination game later in the day against Minnesota. First pitch for that game is set for 7:30 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park. Cam Baumann will start on the mound for Iowa.
Nebraska advanced to play the winner of Michigan and Maryland at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Nebraska turned four hits and two walks into four runs in the second, chasing Iowa starter Grant Judkins after 1 1/3 innings.
“It starts with starting pitching,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said. “For whatever reason, Grant wasn’t sharp. He was up with his fastball. He missed locations. He was having a hard time throwing his changeup for strikes when he needed too. He couldn’t finish anybody off.”
Seven of Nebraska’s first 10 batters worked 3-2 counts against Judkins, with four of them eventually scoring.
Heller and company were forced with the difficult decision of having to go to the bullpen early, knowing it may well need it both later in the day and later in the tournament.
“It wasn’t the greatest feeling having to go to the bullpen that early,” Heller said. “We felt like Grant was capable of getting deep into the game. He’s been our most consistent guy all season long.
“It was a bad day for a bad start.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Jason Foster gave up a run in 1 2/3 innings. Nebraska pounded out four runs on four hits during the 1 2/3 innings Adam Ketelsen pitched, scoring four more in the fifth on four hits and three walks.
Nebraska added a run in the seventh, then ended the game with a run in the eighth. A rule in the Big Ten tournament states the game is ended if a team is ahead by 10 or more runs after seven innings.
Iowa briefly had a threat going in the second. Mitchell Boe’s single scored Brendan Sher. Iowa then loaded the bases, but couldn’t score any more against Nebraska starter Nate Fisher.
“I liked the fact (we) got bases loaded, were making Fisher work,” Heller said.
Fisher settled into a comfortable groove after the second. He retired the side in order four times and faced only four batters in the third and fourth. He threw 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes, striking out seven in the process.
“He threw a lot of fastballs, more than what we expected,” Heller said. “When we got positive counts and got pitches to hit, we weren’t on the barrel. We weren’t extremely dialed in offensively.”
Iowa will turn to Baumann against Minnesota to keep the Hawkeyes’ season alive Friday night.
Heller noted even after the game against Nebraska, Iowa’s bullpen is in good shape.
“Hopefully Cam will step up for us like Cole (McDonald) did in game one,” Heller said. “We’ve got some guys we can go to and guys we feel good about. Minnesota’s swinging the bats really well.
“If we pitch, it’s going to be a good game and we’ll have a chance to win. If you don’t, you’ll see a similar result.”