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Huskers put the throttle down with seven-run sixth inning to storm back against Illinois

Huskers put the throttle down with seven-run sixth inning to storm back against Illinois

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The bats were quiet early, Shay Schanaman didn't have his best stuff and the Huskers were down five.

Not ideal.

But as Nebraska and Illinois showed over 27 innings this weekend, don't throw in the towel in Champaign.

The Husker baseball team (13-5) scored seven runs in the top of the sixth inning to storm back for a 12-7 series-clinching victory against the Illini on Sunday at Illinois Field. Another wild game in the series included an inside-the-park-homer and a Husker stealing home.

"Our lineup was relentless from about the fourth inning on, and it was good to see some good pitching performances and we played clean defense, which has been something we needed to get back to," NU coach Will Bolt said on his postgame radio show.

Two-run homers by Spencer Schwellenbach and Joe Acker bookended the sixth-inning surge, with Acker's blast to left field giving Nebraska a 9-6 lead. Sandwiched between was a bases-clearing double from Brice Matthews, the Huskers' No. 9 hitter.

Matthews and the Huskers were not done.

The freshman, taking advantage of a lax throw from Illinois' catcher back to the pitcher, stole home in the top of the eighth, and Spencer Schwellenbach followed with an RBI double a pitch later. Cam Chick, who had three hits, extended the lead to 12-7 on an RBI hit that slipped through the left side of the infield.

"We just needed to flip our attitude," Bolt said. "We needed to flip our mindset and quit worrying about the things we couldn't control, and just put the throttle down. We just had some enormous two-strike at-bats.

"And Brice Matthews, what can you say?"

Nebraska finished 7-for-15 (.467) in two-out situations and 8-for-17 (.471) with runners on base. NU finished with a season-high 16 hits, including 13 over the final six innings.

Nos. 1-4 in the Husker lineup went 10-for-20 with seven runs scored and eight RBIs.

Illinois plated three runs in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead, which led to an early exit for Schanaman, who gave up five runs on four hits over 2 2/3 innings.

Jaxon Hallmark, who had three hits, got the Huskers on the board in the fourth with a solo shot that just cleared the fence in left field. Chick, two batters later, nearly hit one over the fence in center field, but was able to motor around the bases for an inside-the-park homer to cut the Illini lead to 5-2.

Junior college transfer Koty Frank gave up a solo home run to Jackson Raper in the fifth, but otherwise was very effective in keeping Nebraska in the game. He tossed 3 2/3 innings after coming in relief of Schanaman and struck out three in earning the win.

"I thought Koty even got better as it went along," Bolt said. "I thought his stuff actually got better as he went along. The attack was good, the compete was good, he wasn't worried about anything else other than trying to move on to the next pitch, and that's what we saw from him today."

Schwellenbach moved to the mound to record the final six outs.

Sunday's Husker victory capped a wild series. Friday's series opener, won by NU, went back and forth. Despite taking an early 4-0 lead Saturday, Illinois had to rally for a 10-8 win to tie the series.

"It was another crazy game here," Bolt said. "This ballpark plays awfully offensively so you never know what you're going to get. There's a lot of different stuff that it can present for you."

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

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