LINCOLN — Jake Meyers made his pitch and saw the ball rifle off the bat to his left. In that moment, he knew who had his back.
With the bases loaded and one out early in a scoreless game, the Nebraska hurler barely had time to turn and see second baseman Jake Schleppenbach snag the liner at the peak of his jump, then double off a College of Charleston runner to squash the threat as 3,627 at Haymarket Park roared their approval.
“To have a guy like that behind me gives me a lot of confidence just to throw strikes,” said the Huskers’ left-handed ace. “That’s a huge relief having guys like that behind me. He puts it on the line every day and I love playing with him.”
The sequence was one of many defensive highlights that helped Meyers extend his scoreless streak to 21 2⁄3 innings across six solid frames Sunday afternoon. His offense backed his effort with another middle-of-the-game uprising as Nebraska capped a series sweep of College of Charleston with a 6-2 victory.
Meyers, an Omaha Westside grad, battled all day with stuff he graded as a “C or B” while allowing runners in five innings. His final line included four hits, one walk and three strikeouts on 87 pitches as the Huskers (9-8) lifted their record above .500 for the first time this spring.
“A couple double plays are a pitcher’s best friend,” coach Darin Erstad said. “Definitely Jake was up in the zone more than he had been the last couple starts, but he does what he does. He grinds and finds a way.”
Indeed, the defense repeatedly came through for Meyers. Beyond Schleppenbach’s second-inning web gem off the bat of Luke Morgan, first baseman Ben Miller started a slick 3-6-3 double play in the fourth and Schleppenbach opened the sixth with a sliding catch in foul ground before spearing a smash right at him. NU also turned two for reliever Luis Alvarado in the ninth inning with a 3-6-1 relay.
Schleppenbach led off the third inning with a double to right-center and later scored on an Angelo Altavilla sacrifice fly to put the Huskers up 1-0. Entering the game hitting .182 batting (8 of 44), the senior from Lincoln Pius X said he’s learned how to not let struggles at the plate affect his glove.
“Pitchers did a great job all weekend just throwing strikes and letting the defense play,” Schleppenbach said. “That’s what happens when you’re down in the zone and filling it up, getting ahead of batters.”
College of Charleston freshman starter Griffin McLarty lasted a career-long 3-plus innings but left after walking Miller and Alvarado to begin the fourth. The Huskers roughed up reliever Carter Love, using a Brady Childs bases-loaded walk, Mojo Hagge two-run hit to right and Altavilla run-scoring grounder into left to seize a 5-0 edge.
Nebraska also plated a run on a passed ball in the seventh after walks to Hagge and Altavilla set up the threat. Six Huskers collected one base knock apiece, though Charleston outhit them 8-6.
“Our offense kind of showed up this weekend and that was a confidence-booster for a lot of us,” Meyers said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The Cougars (8-12) broke the shutout in the seventh off reliever Robbie Palkert with a Tommy Richter double and RBI single by Joey Mundy. They scored again in the eighth on a Logan McRae sacrifice fly against Nate Fisher, who earlier gave up a single and double.
Their season-high eight-game homestand now over, the Huskers travel to California for their first five true road games after playing nine straight on neutral sites to start the spring. They play at Cal State Bakersfield at 8 p.m. Tuesday before opening a four-game set with Cal Poly on Thursday.
Erstad said his team has heated up at home along with the temperature. The effort has always been there, he added, even if the results had been erratic.
“They’ve been working hard and it just really hadn’t translated on a consistent basis so far this year,” Erstad said. “Overall it was just a very solid weekend.”
College of Charleston (8-12) …. 000 000 110—2 8 1
At Nebraska (9-8) …………………. 001 400 10x—6 6 1
W: Meyers, 3-1. L: McLarty, 0-2. 2B: CC, Roper (5), Richter 2 (6). NU, Schleppenbach (2).