Fayetteville, Ark. – Kyle Perry and Spencer Schwellenbach limited No. 1 Arkansas to four hits, as No. 19 Nebraska rallied back to force a decisive game seven in the Fayetteville Regional with a 5-3 win Sunday night.
The Huskers (34-13) trailed 3-2 after four frames, but used a three-run fifth inning and Schwellenbach slammed the door with a career-best 4.2 shutout innings to silence a Baum-Walker Stadium crowd of 11,084. The Big Ten Player of the Year, who also had an RBI single, fanned four and allowed just one hit – lowering his season ERA to 0.57.
The Huskers will look to become the fourth team to knock off the No. 1 overall seed in regional play since the NCAA Tournament went to 64 teams in 1999. Monday’s first pitch between the Huskers and Razorbacks (48-11) is set for 6 p.m. (CT). Of the previous three teams to eliminate the No. 1 national seed in regionals, two have been from the Big Ten (Michigan, 2007 and Maryland, 2015).
Griffin Everitt had the game’s biggest hit, a two-out, two-run single in the fifth to give the Nebraska the lead for good and finished 2-for-4 with two RBI. Jaxon Hallmark homered for the second straight game and had two RBI, while Brice Matthews also added two hits for the winners.
While Schwellenbach earned the win, the Huskers may not have gotten to Monday without a gutty performance from starter Kyle Perry. The left-hander, who had pitched just six innings all year after recovering from elbow surgery, went a season-high 4.1 innings and fanned seven while allowing three runs on three hits.
Due to NCAA Tournament rules, Arkansas was the visitor on the scoreboard Sunday night and Perry put the Razorbacks down in order with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a fly out to start the game. Nebraska’s offense then jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Hallmark’s 10th home run of the season. The senior from Midland, Texas, belted a 2-2 pitch from Lael Lockhart off the batter’s eye in center field. It was Hallmark’s second homer of the day, as he also hit a solo homer in NU’s 18-4 win over NJIT.
Perry retired the leadoff hitter in the third and then walked Battles before Matt Goodheart singled to left, Arkansas’s first hit of the night. Cayden Wallace followed with an RBI single and a costly fielding error in center allowed him to take second. With two runners in scoring position Perry got a fly out, but then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Goodheart and on the play a throwing error by Everitt allowed Wallace to also score to give Arkansas a 3-1 lead.
The Huskers got one run back in the bottom of the third, but made two outs on the base paths. Logan Foster reached on a throwing error to start the frame and Joe Acker followed with his 15th double of the year to put two runners in scoring position. Hallmark delivered a sacrifice fly and Nebraska had the tying run at third base with one out. Schwellenbach hit a hard ground ball to first and Acker tried to score, but was cut down at the plate. Luke Roskam followed with an infield single, but on the play Schwellenbach tried to go 1st-to-3rd and was tagged out 6-3-1.
Arkansas mounted a threat in the fifth when Battles worked a one-out walk and Goodheart followed with a single, putting runners on first and third. The Huskers went to Schwellenbach and the right hander struck out Wallace before getting a fly out to strand both runners.
After getting the Huskers out of a jam in the top of the fifth, Schwellenbach tied the game in the bottom of the inning and then the Huskers retook the lead. Acker and Hallmark produced consecutive one-out singles before Schwellenbach’s RBI single knotted the game at three. With a pair of Huskers in scoring position, the Razorbacks went to reliever Ryan Costeiu. The right hander struck out Roskam for the second out, but Everitt came through with a two-RBI single that put Nebraska back in front, 5-3
Lockhard (3-3) lasted 4.1 innings, but allowed five runs, four earned, on eight hits to take the loss.
Costeiu worked out of a jam in the sixth, stranding a pair of runners. Matthews drew a leadoff walk, Hagge laid down a sacrifice bunt, but reach on a fielding error, and then a wild pitch put both in scoring position with no out. Costeiu was able to escape unharmed with a strikeout, a pop out and a fly out.
Both teams went down in order in the seventh, and the Huskers took a 5-3 lead to the eighth. Facing Arkansas’s 2-3-4 hitters, Schwellenbach retired them in order, including an inning-ending strikeout.
Arkansas threatened against the Husker closer in the ninth, putting runners on the corners with one out. Christian Franklin opened the frame with a walk and eventually got to third on a ground out and a wild pitch. With one out, Cullen Smith walked, but Schwellenbach fanned Casey Opitz for the second out and got Battles to pop out to first to end the game.
Nebraska will be seeking its fifth regional title in program history and first since 2005 Monday night with first pitch set for shortly after 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on KBBN 95.3 FM and kbbn.com with coverage on the Huskers Sports Network beginning at 5:30