LINCOLN — If midweek games are a proving ground for young players, then a few Huskers earned some trust Wednesday.
There was freshman Cam Chick, rapping two hits and making plays at third base after entering in the third inning. Tyler Martin, in his Nebraska debut, threw strikes and worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
But freshman Kyle Perry, making his second start, won the game and the day. The left-hander from Millard South piled up nine strikeouts and provided four valuable innings on a day bullpen arms were in short supply. The offense gobbled up 15 walks to provide more than enough support as Nebraska beat Air Force 12-3 to complete a midweek sweep at Haymarket Park.
Perry allowed seven baserunners but stranded six in 82 pitches. After Air Force’s Nos. 8 and 9 hitters reached to open the third, he struck out the top of the order to escape damage. When the first two Falcons reached in the fourth, he added two more strikeouts while only allowing a two-out flare RBI single.
“Just try to stay calm, just throw strikes,” Perry said of his approach. “I struggled at times today, but I thought for the most part when I got into jams I tried to just stay calm and pound the zone and let my defense do the work.”
While Perry was mixing fastballs and change-ups, the Husker lineup capitalized on seven Falcon pitchers with shaky command. Nebraska (8-7) posted three runs in the first and led throughout.
Mojo Hagge went 3 for 5 with four RBIs, Keegan Watson homered for a second straight game and second baseman Alex Henwood collected two hits after missing the past nine games with a shoulder injury.
But a potential injury to shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach hung over the victory. The freshman tripped on the first-base bag when running out a ground ball on a tag play in the second inning and had to be helped partway off the field favoring his ankle before limping the rest of the way.
“We’ll just see what happens,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said afterward, adding that the shortstop would undergo further tests.
Most everything else went Nebraska’s way against Air Force (9-7). With the Huskers looking ahead to Friday’s Big Ten-opening home series against Michigan State, Erstad said Perry’s four-inning outing had coaches “doing cartwheels after we got three.” Ethan Frazier — three innings, one earned run — and the freshman Martin — one scoreless inning in his college debut — followed. Sophomore Jaxon Hallmark pitched a clean ninth in his second career mound appearance.
NU’s three-run first came via an Aaron Palensky bases-loaded walk, a Luke Roskam ground-ball double play and an error. Run-scoring hits by Colby Gomes, Henwood and Hagge highlighted a four-run third. Then Watson deposited a ball into the right-field bullpen in the sixth. Meanwhile, Angelo Altavilla and Hagge both drove in runs in the sixth and eighth.
Henwood’s return provides a spark for a group that expected a lengthy absence from the senior. Though he tore a muscle in his shoulder and plans to have surgery after the season, the second baseman said his goal was to return before Big Ten action. Any pain or limitation he feels won’t be any excuse for how he performs.
The rest of the Huskers felt the same with a possible doubleheader against Michigan State looming Friday.
“Proving that you can,” Henwood said. “That’s a great opportunity for midweeks.”