Nearly 5,500 fans made their way to Haymarket Park to watch a noon baseball game Friday.

Some, we can assume, were skipping work to watch 20th-ranked Nebraska open a three-game set against Michigan.

The Big Ten champion Huskers, on the other hand, are not skipping a beat.



Cade Povich, who opened the game with an immaculate inning, pitched seven scoreless frames, and relievers Jake Bunz and Spencer Schwellenbach tossed zeroes, too, in leading the Huskers to a 1-0 win against the Wolverines.

Nebraska, which has won nine straight games, wrapped up a Big Ten championship last week in Bloomington, Indiana, and this weekend's series against Michigan was to serve as sort of a parade lap. Yet the Huskers played with the same energy and intensity Friday as they had all season.

Povich, who struck out nine and allowed only four hits, delivered a huge fist pump after striking out Michigan's Benjamin Sems to end the sixth inning.

Think the Huskers don't want this series?

"There's always something to play for," said Schwellenbach, who pitched a perfect ninth. "Right now we're trying to be a 1 seed; that's the biggest thing right now. You could say we won the Big Ten championship already and we have nothing to play for, but that's definitely not the case.

"And Michigan has something to play for, too."

NU coach Will Bolt said he was pleased to see his team come out with fire, but he's not surprised.

"We’ve seen it for 40 games before this with this team. That’s who they are," the second-year Husker coach said. "They show up and they compete no matter the circumstances, and I thought the defense was the difference in the game today."

The Michigan-Nebraska series was a matchup of the Big Ten's top two offenses. NU entered the weekend No. 1 in hitting at .282 and Michigan was just behind at .281. The Wolverines also lead the league in runs scored.

But this one belonged to the Friday aces.

Povich (6-1) began the game by striking out the side on nine pitches. A perfect inning.

"That was pretty special, especially with the crowd today," said Povich, who had all five of his pitches — cutter, slider, curve, change-up and fastball — working.

Bolt said he can't recall ever being part of an immaculate inning.

"Especially to start the game in this environment; it tells you how big a stud Cade Povich is," Bolt said. "He’s just going to go out there and attack and his stuff was amazing from the get-go."

The left-handed Povich didn't allow a baserunner until the fourth inning or a hit until the fifth, and he wiggled out of trouble in the fifth and sixth frames, as Michigan stranded runners in scoring position both times.

While no immaculate inning, Michigan (26-16) lefty Steve Hajjar (4-1) was just as good. He went the distance, struck out five and allowed only four hits — all singles. He was still touching 94 mph in the eighth inning.

"We had two of the best left-handed pitchers in the conference, I’d say two of the best in the country, with a great atmosphere," Bolt said.

Nebraska (30-11) cracked the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Schwellenbach laced a two-out hit to left field, stole second when he saw a pitch go in the dirt, then scored on Luke Roskam's base knock through the left side of the infield. Roskam is hitting nearly .400 with runners in scoring position this season.

"I was kind of mad at myself that I didn’t get to second on (my) hit," Schwellenbach said. "Two outs, you got to get to second base just to get in scoring position, but then I saw a ball in the dirt and I got to second base for Luke and he does what he does best."

Bunz struck out two in a scoreless eighth and Schwellenbach recorded his eighth save of the season. Nebraska pitchers have thrown a league-best six shutouts this season, and this one came against a Michigan lineup with four hitters batting .290 or better. 

Nebraska and Michigan will continue the series at noon Saturday.

If Friday was any indication, NU will be ready to go.

"We’re Big Ten champs, it’s cool and all … but we still have a chance to win two more games and put us in even better position going into regionals," Povich said. "We’re just going to keep showing up."

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.