The Nebraska baseball team improved 3-1 in Big Ten Conference play with a 7-4 win over the Northwestern Wildcats on Friday afternoon. Now 19-9 overall on the season, the Huskers got three hits and two RBI’s each from Richard Stock and Pat Kelly, including a triple from Stock and a solo home run from Kelly.
Tom Lemke started for the Huskers and went 6.0 innings in the win to improve to 3-2 on the season. The junior righty gave up three runs on the day, all in the third inning, while putting up zeros in five of his six innings.
After the Huskers went down in order in the first, including two strikeouts, Nebraska came out swinging in the second and scored two runs on three hits and one Northwestern error. Kash Kalkowski opened the inning with a single and scored on Stock’s first triple of the year into the right field corner. Josh Scheffert then came to the plate for the first time in four games due to a hamstring injury and drove in his 16th RBI of the season on grounder that Zach Morton was unable to handle at second base, allowing Scheffert to reach. Cory Burleson followed with a double of the right-field wall to give NU runners and second and third with no outs, but the Huskers bats went silent, as Wildcat starter Francis Brooke retired the next three batters he faced to end the Huskers’ scoring threat.
The Wildcats answered in the bottom of the third and took a 3-2 lead with three runs on four hits. Nine-hitter Hamilton Wise led off with a walk and the next four Wildcats singled to plate three runs. With runners on first and second and no out, Lemke threw out the lead runner at third base on a sacrifice bunt, got a groundout and notched his first strikeout of the game to get out of the inning.
Lemke bounced back in the bottom of the fourth and retired the Wildcats in order to give the Huskers some momentum into the fifth, which they used to score two runs and retake the lead, 4-3.
Kelly started the fifth by tying the game with his fourth home run of the season on a shot over the wall in left-center field. The Huskers then loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch of Kale Kiser, a bunt single by Michael Pritchard and a walk to Rich Sanguinetti. Brooke retired the next two batters he faced before Stock drove in Pritchard with an infield single, but no other Huskers came to the plate, as Kalkowski over ran second base, forcing Sanguinetti into a pickle and he was eventually tagged out to end the inning.
It looked like the Huskers would go away quietly in the sixth, but Kelly reach on a two-out single and Kiser was hit for the second straight inning to pick up his 41st-career HBP to put runners and first and second for Pritchard. A left-handed batter, Pritchard delivered an opposite-field double to the left-center-field gap to score Kelly, but Kiser was cut down at the plate trying to score from first base to end the inning.
Tyler King took the mound for the Huskers in the bottom of the seventh and got the first two batters he faced, but gave up back-to-back two-out doubles, the first two extra-base hits of the game for the Wildcats. Head Coach Darin Erstad went to Dylan Vogt with the game-tying run on second, but Vogt didn’t have to retire a batter as Burleson threw out Geoff Rowan on a steal attempt at third to end the inning, his 13th runner caught stealing of the year in 21 attempts.
The Huskers got the run back and added another in the top of the eighth off three hits. Stock led off the inning with a single and scored after a pair of one-out singles from Burleson and Kelly. Burleson then scored on a sacrifice fly by Kiser to put the Huskers up 7-4 going into the bottom of the eighth, where Vogt retired the Wildcats in order.
Erstad turned the ball to Travis Huber in the ninth and he gave up two singles, but posted back-to-back strikeouts to end the game and pick up his fifth save of the season.
The Huskers return to Rocky Miller Park tomorrow at 1 p.m. for game two of its series with Northwestern. Sophomore Jon Keller will try to move to 4-0 on the season, while the freshman Brandon Magallones will take his perfect 4-0 record to the mound for the Wildcats.