The sun darted out from behind one of those big, fluffy clouds that like to hang over Lincoln in the springtime.

And with a swing of the bat a split second later, Jaxon Hallmark helped lift the cloud that has covered the Nebraska baseball for the last month.

Hallmark's fifth-inning, three-run home run was the exclamation point on a day that saw the Nebraska baseball team give itself another RPI shot in the arm, and maybe shake off four weeks worth of a bunch of lousy feelings with an 8-5 win Sunday over No. 20 Arizona State in front of 5,325 at Haymarket Park.

The victory lifted the Huskers (26-19) to a series win over the Sun Devils, something that looked doubtful, if not not impossible, after Friday night's 15-6 shellacking ASU administered to the Big Red.

"We're in playoff baseball (mode). There's no room for error at all. It's one of those things where you throw out what your numbers are up to this point; you throw out whether the other team's better than you on paper," NU coach Darin Erstad said. "It's all about fighting this time of year and who can get the job done.

"And our guys didn't back down the last two days and we found a way."

A Nebraska offense stuck in neutral since early April tied its season high with three home runs. Besides Hallmark, who was mired in a 5-for-46 slump before his blast, Cam Chick and Alex Henwood also went deep.

Chick's bomb in the first that nearly cleared the right field bullpen gave Nebraska a 1-0 lead. After Arizona State scored three runs in the top of the second off a scuffling Reece Eddins, Henwood delivered a two-run shot to tie the game in the bottom of the frame and the Huskers didn't trail again.

Henwood finished a triple short of the cycle and a few feet from a two-homer day, and for maybe the first time in his career, the senior was intentionally walked late in the contest.

"Baseball is a goofy game. Sometimes you just get in that flow state," Henwood said. "I was seeing the ball really well today, and it was finding some holes in the field."

Eddins found himself, too.

After allowing three earned runs on four hits, four walks and a hit batter, and throwing 52 pitches in the first two innings, the senior right-hander settled down and got through the sixth with no more damage. He faced one over the minimum over his final four innings, allowing just two more hits to one of the most potent offenses in the nation. He threw just 37 pitches over his final four innings of work.

Mike Waldron and Shay Schanaman then got NU to the finish line.

"I didn't have the best command early on, but I was able to find my offspeed a lot and get ahead early in counts. That was huge, just having leverage on the hitters," Eddins said. "It wasn't looking the best after it started, but I knew me going deep into the game would be huge for our success."

The series win was the first for NU since sweeping Penn State April 12-13.

Now, the Huskers will go into next weekend's series against Michigan at Haymarket Park with a slim chance to win the Big Ten title and, for the first time in a while, take some positive feelings coming out of the previous weekend.

Thanks to the Wolverines' Sunday win over Indiana, Nebraska enters the final weekend of the regular season 2.5 games back of Michigan for first and one game behind the Hoosiers for second in the league.

Baseball is a funny game, and things will reset again come Thursday night against Michigan. For three hours Sunday, the Huskers seemed to find some of the swagger they had lost during their four-week swoon.

"This team's always ready to go. We've just had a few bad breaks (and) we haven't been swinging the bats super well," Henwood said. "We started to connect the dots a little bit more this weekend. There's definitely a lot still to improve on, but this is a testament to what this team can do. 

"We've got a lot of fighters."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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