Big Ten Tournament Notes: Scoreless Streak Ends for Husker Freshman Matt Waldron
Nebraska’s freshman starter lost his lengthy scoreless streak and wasn’t as sharp as he’s been, but still managed to give NU a chance to win Thursday.
Right-hander Matt Waldron had gone 182⁄3 innings without allowing a run when he stepped on the mound in the Huskers’ elimination game against Indiana. The Hoosiers broke through against him in the fourth, scoring twice — but Waldron managed to keep the game close until he was pulled in the sixth inning of NU’s 6-2 loss.
Waldron walked three for the first time all year. He needed 12 pitches to retire the first seven hitters he faced, but lost his command after that.
“I struggled a little bit with keeping it down in the zone,” Waldron said. “I tried to keep the ball on the ground and let the defense play. They did a great job.”
An error on a two-out grounder by third baseman Jake Placzek allowed Indiana to tie the game 1-1 in the fourth. The next batter, Brian Wilhite, put the Hoosiers in front with a bloop single that landed just in front of a diving Jake Meyers in right field. But Placzek also turned a key double play to help limit the damage in that inning.
Waldron pitched at least five innings in all 10 of his starts this season.
Hoosiers rise and shine
The Hoosiers had early wake-up calls on back-to-back days. And that didn’t bother them one bit.
Indiana followed the same path in the 2015 Big Ten tournament. IU played in the first game, lost, then had to come back for the next morning’s elimination game.
The Hoosiers lost to Maryland 5-3 Wednesday morning. They bounced back to beat Nebraska on Thursday.
The alarms started blaring at 5:30 a.m. The team ate breakfast at 6. The team bus left the hotel at 6:30.
The Hoosiers might use that same routine Friday — though they won’t play until 5 p.m., when they’ll face the loser of the Maryland-Michigan State game.
“We’ve played four the last two years, so we’re trying to flip our game (Friday) to a 9 a.m. game,” Indiana coach Chris Lemonis said, smiling. “That was the first thing (the players) asked: ‘What time do we play (Friday)?’”
Better attitude pays off for IU
The Hoosiers may have been trying too hard to make things happen during their recent stretch of defeats, senior starting pitcher Caleb Baragar said.
They had a shot at the regular-season championship during the final series at Haymarket Park last week, but made mistakes and lost all three contests to Nebraska.
They opened the Big Ten tournament Wednesday, knowing they had to win the whole thing to keep their season alive. And Maryland sent them to the losers bracket.
But Indiana took the field Thursday with a better attitude, Baragar said.
“At this point, we’ve just got to win,” Baragar said. “I thought everyone had a lot of energy (Thursday) — that was really good.”
The Hoosiers have been the Big Ten’s most successful program lately, qualifying for three straight NCAA regionals. They won the league’s regular-season and tournament titles in 2013 and 2014. But they may have felt the pressure to live up to that standard.
“We flew in last week with a lot of expectations, and nothing has gone right for us until (Thursday),” Lemonis said. “So I give our kids a lot of credit.”
Bits and pieces
» The TD Ameritrade grounds crew covered the infield right after Michigan secured a 3-2 win over Minnesota. The tarp was never removed. Two games were postponed until Friday. No. 6 seed Maryland and No. 7 seed Michigan State will play at 9 a.m., while No. 4 seed Ohio State will meet No. 8 seed Iowa at 1 p.m. No. 3 seed Indiana and No. 5 seed Michigan await the losers for a pair of Friday night elimination games, set for 5 and 9 p.m.
» Nebraska has lost five consecutive conference tournament games, dating to 2014.
» Minnesota and Nebraska, the two top seeds, both went 0-2 this week. It’s the first time the top two Big Ten tournament seeds have been eliminated without recording a win since the league moved to a six-team field in 2000 (and then eight in 2014).