Oh, what a beautiful day!
The game started slowly for Neb as Leise ground-out weakly. Bruce then brightened the day a bit with a walk. Van Horn quickly showed he was going to be aggressive giving Bruce the steal sign early in the Morris at bat. It looks like a great call as Craig the all-star shortstop stumbled and fell. However luck was all on Richmond's side as Craig fell right in front of the sliding Bruce blocking him from the bag and the throw was right where Craig could still handle it from his knees. Bruce slid right into Craig, Craig catches the throw and applies the tag. DVH argues vehemently that the bag was blocked before the throw arrived to no avail. Morris then ends the inning. Van Horn then removes his sunglasses and gestures to the second base umpire essentially asking him if he needed them. Van Horn then turned to the dugout and the umpire followed him and threw him out. Very dark cloud now over the stadium, with the sun shining brightly on the Spiders. A turn for the better happened as the plate umpire let cooler heads prevail and turned the disqualification into a warning against the bench and Van Horn was allowed to continue.
The bottom of the first the day continued to get worse for the Huskers as Rodrique once again struggled and Richmond starts the inning off with a walk. Two hitters later Richmond hits a two run home run and all is not well in Husker land. Rodrique then gets thru the inning although he was hit hard again for a long out.
Neb does not score in the second wasting a lead-off double. Rodrique is then hit hard again in the second and with two out after a warning track out DVH brings in Steve Hale. Hale gets a soft fly ball out ending the threat.
Neb manufactures two runs in the third highlighted by a double by Bruce. Both runs coming via sacrifice flies. Hale gets a three up and three down inning in the bottom of the third and the sun is starting to shine for the Huskers.
In the fourth Bolt hits a one out double that just missed being a home run. Eymann walks and Simokaitis starts his very good day with a ringing single to right field loading the bases. The Spiders change pitchers and Leise greets the new Richmond thrower with a base hit right back up the middle. Two runs score and Simo ends up at third. Finally the crowd starts to feel the heat of the sun. For the first time the crowd is starting to sense that something good is about to happen. One more run crosses the plate as Neb once again gets a Sac fly. The crowd is abuzz now. Neb leads 5-2. Richmond gets their only score off of Hale in the bottom of the fourth on a couple of base hits and a sac fly of their own.
The game settles down at this point. Hale pitching for Neb is like a bulldog. He refuses to let up. After the disasterous ending for him on Sat., you could feel the determination this young man was competing with. The fans willing him on. He overcomes a threat in the 6th. Going to the seventh the score remains 5-3. The fervor in the park was at fever pitch. One knew something was going to happen, the only questions were when and what.
In the seventh Neb threatens but it dies with a line drive out off the bat of Eymann that ends in a double play. Richmond opens the bottom of the seventh with a base hit. Van Horn emerges from the dugout and the fans react with anticipation. Hale hands him the ball and the crowd give Hale a well deserved ovation. Van Horn then motions to the bullpen. Shane Komine appears and the crowd rises. The noise at this point is deafening. Every man, woman, and child for the Huskers are thinking that this game is over. Superman is now on the mound.
Komine tosses his warm-up and nobody sits. First pitch from Komine is a nasty curve for a strike and the fans roar. His second pitch is hit right back at him and he fields it cleanly and throws for the out at second. Simo makes the turn and throw and Board just barely beats the throw at first. So reminiscent of Friday's eighth inning double play with not quite the same ending. Everyone is thinking now we have this in hand. Shane winds and deals a fast ball, Pritz swings with everything he has and makes contact. The crowd is hushed as they stare in disbelief as the ball flies over the left field fence. The game has been tied and Superman's cape suddenly looked a bit tattered. The next hitter flied out weakly to left. Komine then fanned Craig, who already had a HR in the game. I looked around, thinking I was going to see long faces, but to my huge surprise all I saw was confidence from the players and on the faces in the crowd.
To the eighth inning and Simo, (who would be the MVP today if not for Seely), leads off with a walk. Leise continued his comeback with a single. Van Horn then called for a safety squeeze. Bruce laid down a nice bunt and the pitcher fielded the ball and expecting a runner coming home looked there first. Simo had held and by the time he turned to first there was no play with Bruce's hustle. The noise and anticipation as Morris came to the plate was unbelievable. The count ran to three and two raising the tension level even higher. When Morris then popped out the crowd was a bit stunned. Blevins then worked a walk, with great patience. Seely stepped to the plate and one knew that something would happen here. Seely had three hits already and had hit the ball hard everytime. As soon as the ball left the bat the tension broke as you knew it was a GRAND SLAM. The confidence the crowd showed was rewarded. After an error and two outs Shane come out for the eighth. Two quick outs by Komine and the crowd was thinking of nothing but Omaha. Richmond did not give in just yet though. Back to back doubles scored a run for the Spiders bringing them within 4 once again, but Shane ended that threat with another K to add to his total.
Neb scores an insurance run in the ninth and once again the crowd was loud. Komine came out in the ninth and the look he had was one of a warrior. You just knew that he was going to finish this quick. After striking out the first hitter and getting the second to ground out to third Shane stood behind the mound. He looked to everyone of his infielders and smiled at them. He then snapped the ball in his glove and turned, walked back up the mound and toed the rubber. The pitch and a hard hit ground ball in the hole between short and third, Simo with a great jump on the ball, backhands the ball cleanly. Going away from first base he makes the throw. The ball bounces about 12 feet in front of Eymann, playing first base for only the second time all year for the injured Hopper, stays with the hop and makes the play. The umpire raises his arm and the Huskers are heading back to Omaha.
The clouds have rolled out and sunshine baths down on this overachieving Husker squad. They run to the second base area and celebrate. What a joy to see champions getting to enjoy their moment of glory. The crowd stand and cheers for many moments. Watching as Shane douses his coach with Gatorade the crowd stands almost stunned in disbelief that this is reality. This is Husker baseball, the step-child to the almighty Big Red football program. The program is just here to pass the time till football starts again. The fans, young and old alike, are still standing and clapping, not sure what else to do. No one ready to leave, not ready for the moment and the feeling to end. On to Omaha is the thought and Omaha is the chant now.
This team is filled with overachievers. DVH probably has the least amount of actual talent of his last three teams. Yet from all practical stand points it is his best chance of winning a game or two in Omaha. Komine will be challenged by Clemson's bats in the opener. However Superman has somehow found a way not to be bothered by Kryptonite. Do not be surprised to see this young man find a way to lead the Huskers to a first round victory. The hitting all year has been suspect at best. Once again they just produce at the right times in big games. Players like Joe Simokaitis, that overcame a slump of major proportions to have a great Super regional. Players like Will Bolt, nothing exciting about him except he never quits and is a true leader. I can go on but would end up naming the entire TEAM. Emphasis on team as that is what DVH has here a TEAM. Good luck in Omaha and a preview to the first game will follow in the next couple of days.
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