It was a day of firsts for the Nebraska baseball team (1-3, 0-0 Big Ten) on Friday, as sophomore Zach Hirsch picked up his first win and Head Coach Darin Erstad earned his first win as the Huskers’ head coach in a 5-2 win over the Utah Utes. Hirsch and the rest of the pitching staff allowed more than one hit in an inning just once in the ball game, while the Husker offense pounded out five runs on 12 hits.
Hirsch, a native of St. Charles, Ill., gave the Huskers six strong innings in his second start of the season. The 6-4 lefty doubled his previous career high of three strikeouts with six on the afternoon and gave up just one earned run. Junior right-hander Travis Huber shut the door for the Huskers in the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning to earn his first save as a Husker, after Dylan Vogt pitched 1.2 innings of shutout baseball.
Junior Richard Stock powered the Husker offense with a 3-for-4 performance, including a double, and one RBI. Rich Sanguinetti, Austin Darby and Cory Burleson each had two hits in the game, with Burleson also producing an RBI. The Huskers were aggressive on the base paths with four stolen bases, including two from Darby. Last season, the Huskers stole four or bases just twice with a five against both Nebraska-Kearny and Oklahoma State.
After catching a couple of bad breaks on the bases paths in the first three innings, the Huskers broke through in the bottom of the fourth with four runs on four hits. Sanguinetti and Darby started the inning with back-to-back singles, including a hit-and-run from Darby that moved Sanguinetti to third. Chad Christensen was up next and drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Stock followed with a two-RBI single for his second hit of the game after leading off the second with a double off the right field wall. Burleson kept the Huskers rolling with another single to drive in Christensen and gave NU runners at first and third with no out. Following a walk to Scheffert to again load the bases, the Utes got their first out of the inning on a force out of Stock at home. Nebraska scored another run during Bryan Peters’ at bat off a wild pitch from Josh Chapman, before the Utes’ right hander retied Peters and Ty Kildow to end the inning.
The Utes finally got to Hirsch in the top of the sixth to put a run on the board. Parker Morin started everything with a one-out single and Trey Nielsen followed with a walk before Jo Jo Sharrar knocked in Morin with a single to right field. Hirsch quickly put an end to the Utes’ rally, as he got Ethan Leiter to ground into an inning-end 4-6-3 double play.
Nebraska got the run back in the bottom of the sixth by getting active on the bases. With runners at first and second following a double from Scheffert and an infield single from Blake Headley, Erstad dialed up a double steal and the Utes’ third baseman was unable to field the throw, allowing Scheffert to score easily and put the Huskers up 5-1.
Freshman Jeff Stovall took the mound in the top of the seventh for his first appearance as a Husker and started out well with a fly out. Utah then put the pressure on with a single and two walks to load the bases with one out. Erstad went to Vogt and the veteran from Omaha came to the rescue by getting the next two Utah batters out, but the Utes scored one run on Shaun Cooper’s diving catch by Kildow on the left field warning track for the second out.
After blowing a pair of saves last Saturday and Sunday, Erstad brought in Huber to take a shot at the closer role. The College of Southern Idaho transfer needed just 13 pitches to secure the win.
The Huskers will play their first double header of the 2012 season tomorrow when they meet the Utes for another game at 3 p.m., before facing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 7 p.m. NU is set to send sophomore Jon Keller to the mound in game one and junior Tom Lemke will start his first game of the season in the nightcap.