While his team was still undefeated in pool play at The American Legion World Series, Nebraska coach Pat Mooney’s thoughts were with his opponents Friday night.
Michigan pitching coach Deron Gross’ father had passed away the night before Nebraska’s 6-3 win.
“We said a nice prayer for him after the game. All our hearts are with the Midland families right now,” Mooney said.
“He’s a good friend,” Michigan coach Steve Cronkright said, noting how close the coaching staff is. “We’re praying with him. … It always still hurts (when you lose a parent).”
Big first inning for Nebraska
Nebraska and Michigan had to wait until late Friday to get on the field as heavy rain delayed the start of the second day of action at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
The scheduled 4 p.m. start was moved to 7 p.m. But once Nebraska took the field, they wasted little time in jumping out on their opponents and becoming the fifth straight designated away team to win at Shelby.
“Six (runs) in a seven-inning game, that was huge, monstrous, and you could see it was, because that’s all we got,” Mooney said, referring to ALWS officials’ decision to shorten games to seven innings because of weather concerns.
Nebraska sent 10 hitters to the plate in a six-run, three-hit first inning. But they mustered just one more hit over the final six innings.
“I think he finally settled down and he was getting ahead of everybody,” Mooney said of Michigan starter Garrett Willis, who threw six innings. “He was throwing all his pitches in for strikes after that and he was just kind of dominating the game.”
The four-hit performance by Nebraska (56-5 overall, 2-0 in the ALWS) came a day after they came one hit short of tying the most hits in a single game in ALWS history.
Meanwhile, Michigan (40-4, 0-2), which lost a heartbreaker 3-2 in 10 innings on Thursday, didn’t let their opponent’s big first inning get them down.
Nebraska reliever Dane Hansen entered in the fifth but got into trouble after opening with a popup and a groundout. Jordan Patty singled, advanced to second on a fielding error, reached third on Cole Brooks’ single and scored on a throwing error to make it 6-2. Michigan loaded the bases, but Hansen forced a popout to end the inning.
Nebraska tried to manufacture a run in the sixth with runners on 1st and 3rd and two outs after walks by Garrett Willis. But Tom Steier, Nebraska’s starting pitcher who moved to third base after four innings, was thrown out trying to steal home.
Patty hit the first home run of the Series, a solo shot to left in the bottom of the seventh, for the final score.
Nebraska will face Massachusetts in Game 9 Saturday night, while Michigan meets Nevada in Game 10 on Sunday.