PAPILLION — Nebraska’s plans quickly changed Wednesday night. About two outs in, actually.
Suddenly, the Huskers were in another midweek hole, this time against Omaha.
But NU recovered from a first-inning three-run deficit and broke the game open with a four-run eighth en route to an 8-5 baseball win in front of 1,942 fans at Werner Park.
Aaron Palensky, who went to school a mile or two down the road from the ballpark and had 20 to 30 family members at the game (including brother Ben, who starts for the Mavericks), broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth with an RBI single to left field. Three more Husker runs followed.
“I did like our response,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “Putting up a three-spot (in the third) was huge. Just to get a response when they took that lead, it could have got really ugly in a hurry, but we were able to keep it together.”
Omaha took advantage of Kyle Perry’s struggles with the strike zone in the first. The freshman left-hander gave up three runs on one hit and four walks.
When Perry hit Braden Rogers, the Mavericks’ No. 8 hitter, in the foot with a his 36th pitch, Perry’s evening was complete after two-thirds of an inning, and NU turned to Mike Waldron.
“The plans were kind of out of the window after the first inning,” Erstad said. “We just needed someone to step up, whoever that was going to be.”
Stepping up were six Husker relievers, including seldom-used Jaxon Hallmark.
Waldron got NU out of a bases-loaded jam to end the first. Hallmark, making only his third appearance on the mound, pitched a scoreless fourth, fifth and sixth. Robbie Palkert (2-2) was strong in seventh, Shay Schanaman overcome a leadoff homer in the eighth and Colby Gomes earned his seventh save by striking out the side in the ninth.
The Huskers (21-11) — who used five pitchers in Tuesday’s 5-0 loss against Kansas State, and play five games this week — gave up eight walks, but none after the third inning.
“Jaxon hasn’t pitched a lot and he was just fantastic, and to be able to get what we did out of him, because we didn’t want to have to stretch any of those other guys out with having to play in two days,” Erstad said. “For me, (he) was the biggest guy in this whole game. That was huge.”
The bullpen allowed the Husker offense to play catch-up and then later pull away.
Spencer Schwellenbach’s first collegiate homer, an opposite-field shot to right, sparked a three-run third inning and a 4-3 lead before Omaha (21-10-1) tied the game on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom half of the inning.
NU’s four-run eighth was ignited by Alex Henwood, who drew a walk after falling behind 0-2. Schwellenbach was hit by a pitch, Palensky lined a shot to left and Henwood beat the tag at home, scoring from second base, to give NU a 5-4 lead.
“It definitely felt good to come through for the boys,” said Palensky, who attended Papillion-La Vista South High School. “It meant a little bit more playing an (in-state) rival team.”
The Huskers continued to score in the eighth. Joe Acker drilled a two-run double to deep left-center field, and Luke Roskam, who finished 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, followed with a sharp RBI single, plating Acker.
“We want to get off to a good start and we had a couple young pups (Perry and Bo Blessie) learn the valley of the strike zone,” Erstad said. “They had a deflector shield up there around the strike zone. They just let it snowball and kept not throwing strikes. Fortunately, we were able to pick them up.”
Nebraska cranked out 12 hits a day after recording five against Kansas State.
Nebraska continues its busy week — it started with flight delays in Pennsylvania — with a three-game series at Iowa beginning on Friday.