An underachieving season came to an end May 21 at Haymarket Park, when Nebraska clinched a series win over Michigan State but failed to qualify for the postseason.
The Huskers will not go to Omaha for in the Big Ten Baseball Tournament next week, despite winning more conference games than Purdue, which made it into the tournament due to a higher winning percentage.
The Boilermakers from West Lafayette, Indiana, declared a rainout on Saturday, despite no rain falling for more than two hours from the game’s scheduled start. The threat of a thunderstorm apparently was enough to persuade coaches, administrators and umpires not to start the game on time, then not to start it at all.
C.J. Hood is pumped up after ending the Spartans' ninth-inning threat Saturday.
Purdue earned every bit of ridicule it has received on social media for not trying to get the game in, but the Huskers have no one to blame but themselves for missing the tournament. The Huskers literally threw away easy wins at Minnesota and Illinois with errors by veteran players, and their overall shaky defense was the main reason they finished 23-30 on the season.
By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that the bus hauling the Purdue baseball team will drive in reverse gear all the way from Eppley Airfield to the stadium for next week’s Big Ten Tournament. I’m not sure how that one got started.
The Huskers won’t need a bus at all, largely because they failed to add on runs when they took the lead in games this season. That part of their game went much better Saturday.
Only one Husker — redshirt freshman Garrett Anglim — batted .300 this season, although Max Anderson’s four hits Saturday ended his season at .299, a year after a Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign in which he batted .332. Anderson, Cam Chick and Brice Matthews were all expected to improve upon their promising output of 2021, but all slumped early and ended up with seasons that could be considered about the same, or somewhat worse, this year.
Pitching was up and down, and was hampered by season-ending injuries to the Friday starter, Kyle Perry, and the top reliever, Jake Bunz.
Brice Matthews celebrates his home run Friday night against the Spartans.
Matthews got hot at the plate in the final weeks of the season, and won Friday night’s game against the Spartans with a three-run bomb to center field in the bottom of the eighth, but he carried his fielding woes to the very end. He booted a double-play grounder Saturday with a runner on first and NU holding a six-run lead, and that set up a five-run inning for the Spartans, including a grand slam by Trent Farquhar. The error was Matthews’ 15th of the year.
Righthander C.J. Hood, a freshman from Norris High School in Hickman, spared the Big Red yet another late-inning disaster, coming in after classmates Corbin Hawkins and Chandler Benson frittered away what had once been a 10-4 lead.
Hood inherited two baserunners and fell behind the first batter he faced, but with a 3-1 count, he got Dillon Kark to pop out. He wild-pitched the runners to second and third base, but struck out Peter Ahn swinging on a 2-2 pitch to nail down the win, and his first save as a Husker.
Coach Will Bolt called a postgame meeting on the field, which is not uncommon, but this one lasted more than 10 minutes. There’s a lot to unpack from the disappointment of the 2022 season, which saw the Huskers ranked in the preseason Top 25 but fall far short of expectations after coming off a Big Ten championship.