After scoring 15 runs in last night’s series opener, the Nebraska baseball team (32-21, 13-10 Big Ten) was held to just five runs in a 6-5 loss to the Michigan Wolverines. Josh Scheffert and Cory Burleson each had two hits for the Huskers, while Pat Kelly hit his eighth home run of the year in the fourth inning.
The Huskers are now two games back of both the Indiana Hoosiers and Penn State Nittany Lions with one game to play, which means the highest NU can finish in the Big Ten standings is fourth.
Kelly continued to swing a hot stick for the Huskers from the leadoff spot with his fourth home run in his last seven Big Ten games. The Red Wing, Minn., native’s eighth homer of the season is the most for a freshman at NU since Matt Hopper hit 21 bombs in 2000 when Nebraska still played at Buck Beltzer Stadium.
The game started out as a pitcher’s duel, as Ryan Hander and Brandon Sinnery each had one-hit shutouts through the third inning. It quickly changed in the fourth when Nebraska plated four runs and Michigan answered with three.
The Huskers hung four runs on the board in the fourth on three hits, including Kelly’s home run. Scheffert started the frame with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rich Sanguinetti. Scheffert advanced to third on a groundout by Austin Darby and Kale Kiser put runners at the corners for NU with a two-out walk.
Associate Head Coach Will Bolt then dialed up a double steal from the third-base coach’s box that scored Scheffert and put Kiser on second. Scheffert was also the last Husker to steal home, as he pulled off the feat against Fresno State last season on March 13. The two-out rally continued with a single by Burleson and was followed by Kelly’s three-run homer over the 26-foot tall brick wall in left field.
The Wolverines got their offense going in the bottom of the frame with three runs on two hits. Hander was his own worst enemy, as he issued a pair of walks to start the innings that both scored.
NU got one run back in the fifth to extend its lead to two, 5-3. Richard Stock laced his 17th double of the season down the right-field line and later scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Sanguinetti, his fifth RBI of the series.
Michigan took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the seventh with three runs on two hits and a pair of one-out walks off reliever Brandon Pierce. The free passes haunted the Huskers once again, as both came around to score.
Darby led off the eighth with a single, but was stuck there, as Sinnery produced back-to-back strikeouts and got Kelly to fly out to end the inning. The Huskers got the tying run on in the ninth with a single by Chad Christensen, but Sinnery got Stock to ground into a double play to secure the win in his fifth complete game of the season.
The Huskers return to Wilpon Complex tomorrow for their final game of the 2012 regular season at 12:05 p.m. (CT) and will look to pick up a series win.