Walsh shutout against Michigan State keeps Nebraska baseball season alive | Sports

Will Walsh has had a roller coaster career since arriving at Lincoln.

The redshirted sophomore utility player rarely saw the field as he battled injuries throughout his first two years as a Husker. He started the 2023 season playing first base, but after posting a mediocre .176 average, he was moved to a bullpen role. It wasn’t long before he was placed as a midweek starter and then as a Sunday starter. Through all the changes, he has maintained a healthy mindset, wanting to do his best no matter what is asked of him.

“These coaches had so much patience with me,” Walsh said. “Just proving to these guys right after they spent their time with me…just showing these guys it was worth it.”

Walsh didn’t have a better chance to show development was worth it than Friday, as he was on the mound with Nebraska’s season in his hands. What followed were nine rounds of excellence.

The No. 4-seeded Huskers beat the No. 8-seeded Spartans on Friday 4-0 behind a complete shutout by Walsh. The offense rebounded in the eighth inning, putting the game away with three big runs with two outs.

Junior second baseman Max Anderson put Nebraska in the hit column with a one-out single in the first, but the Huskers stalled with back-to-back strikeouts. Walsh took the mound fresh off a quick but effective outing Wednesday against Rutgers. He picked up where he left off, three up, three down.

Designated lead hitter Charlie Fischer moved up to the top spot in the second inning after being hit by a pitch. Freshman third baseman Dylan Carey once again showcased his phenomenal smallball game, laying down a perfect bunt to move Fischer to second. However, like the previous inning, consecutive strikeouts ended the scoring chance. The Spartans managed to bring their own runner up to second in the bottom frame, but Walsh got around that keeping the game scoreless.

The third inning saw Nebraska get two with two out, as Anderson recorded his second single of the day and sophomore left fielder Gabe Swansen earned a bye. The potential inning ended abruptly with second-year catcher Josh Caron hitting an unlucky grounder directly to the Michigan State pitcher. Walsh kept busy, the southpaw going three up, three down with two strikeouts.

The Huskers hit first in the fourth, as Fischer led off the inning with a single. Another big shot from Carey propelled Fischer to second, and junior first baseman Ben Columbus brought it home with an RBI single in the middle. Columbus, like all Huskers, has adapted well to the new short game.

“I haven’t had the power numbers I’d like to have this year,” Columbus said after the game. “I’m doing my best to keep the offense going.”

Walsh continued his strong start, throwing another 1-2-3 inning highlighted by an impressive chase from junior shortstop Brice Matthews on a flyout. The Nebraska defense was clicking on all cylinders with confidence throughout the formation.

“I’m just on offense,” Walsh said after the game. “The defense made some great plays behind me, so fill it in and let the defense do what they can do.”

Anderson delivered his third hit of the game with a two-out single, while Swansen followed with his own single at the fifth. However, a Caron takedown ended the first frame, as did the third. Michigan State recorded its second hit of the game with a first single, but a foul and a 6-4-3 double play kept Nebraska ahead 1-0.

The Huskers went three up, three down in the sixth inning, while Walsh added another 1-2-3 inning to his day. The frame ended with Swansen making a diving catch on the warning track, preventing a Spartan off-base hit.

It looked like another quick run for Michigan State, but a two-out fielding error moved Matthews to first place. Anderson picked up his fourth hit of the game, but it was for nothing as a pitch from Swansen left Nebraska with two runners left on base for the third time in the contest.

Despite the offense’s lack of production, Walsh kept the Spartans in check, throwing another scoreless frame despite only rebounding on the second base sack. Walsh only needed nine pitches to get all three out.

After several empty innings, the Huskers scored an insurance run in the eighth inning. It started with Fischer drawing a step and senior pinch runner Luke Satori replacing him at first. Satori stole second, putting a runner in scoring position for Columbus to deliver their second RBI of the game, putting Nebraska up 2-0.

“The two nothing lead felt like a little over two points there with the way this game was going,” head coach Will Bolt said after the game. “Those two-man RBIs are obviously always huge.”

The Huskers weren’t finished yet, with redshirted second-year right fielder Garrett Anglim receiving a bye for first. That put senior center fielder Casey Burnham at bat from the nine-hole point, as his 0-11 hit in the tournament pushed him up the order. Burnham picked the perfect moment to register his first hit in Omaha, a helicopter that took an absurd bounce off the first baseman, resulting in a punt triple. The massive eighth inning gave Nebraska a comfortable 4-0 lead.

“[Burnham] had some bad luck,” Bolt said after the game. “We kind of joke about some things to do to try and change your luck, and we owed him that one tonight.”

Walsh returned to the mound for the bottom of the eighth inning with his pitch count still under 80. He orchestrated another quick inning with 11 pitches, going three up, three down.

Nebraska won three goals, three in the top of the ninth, but all the fans cared about was the man who was three out of the complete shutout. Walsh took the field to a standing ovation. He knocked out the first two Spartans he faced, but dropped a two-out single as his throws started to hover around the low 70s. At home plate was Michigan State junior first baseman Brock Vradenburg, a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten player with an average of .400. On a 1-2 count and his 104th pitch, Walsh swung it around, earning the season-saving victory and an all-time Husker performance.

Walsh finished with seven strikeouts while allowing only four hits. He played it with great efficiency with 75 of his 104 pitches being strikes. Walsh’s ability to go the distance saves Nebraska’s bullpen for at least one game against No. 1-seeded Maryland on Saturday.

“You have to have performances like that on the mound to get out of the loser’s bracket,” Bolt said after the game. “Shay [Schanaman] was unavailable to pitch tonight. [Corbin] Hawkins pitched a bunch…all of those guys are going to be back and ready to pitch tomorrow.

Burnham and Columbus each had three RBIs for the Huskers, while Anderson’s four hits made him the first player in the nation to hit the 100 hit mark for the year.

Nebraska finished with four runs on nine hits and no errors. Michigan State finished scoreless on four hits and two errors.

The Huskers will face the Terrapins in a rematch of Thursday’s game on Saturday. If Nebraska were to win, the two teams would play again later in the day with a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game on the line.

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