Two-out hits were the story for the Nebraska baseball team (12-16, 6-1 Big Ten) on Friday night at Duane Banks Field, as the Huskers scored eight of their 12 runs with two-out RBIs on their way to a 12-5 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes (10-14, 1-6 Big Ten). With the win, the Huskers are 3-0 in Big Ten series openers this season and 6-1 overall on the year in conference play.
Eight Huskers tallied a hit on the night, including a 4-for-6 evening from senior outfielder Rich Sanguinetti. Fellow senior Kash Kalkowski added his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the first, and Tanner Lubach drove in a career-high four RBIs with his first career double as a Husker.
Nebraska starter Christian DeLeon picked up this second win in conference play, while improving to 3-2 on the year, as he struck out five while giving up three runs (all earned) on 10 hits over 6.0 innings. The junior righty struggled early, giving up eight hits in the first three innings of the game, but then locked in and allowed just two outs over his final three innings of work.
Relievers Luke Bublitz, Jeff Chesnut and Colton Howell each threw an inning of relief to secure the win. Bublitz threw a perfect seventh inning, including a pair of strikeouts to end the inning, and Chesnut delivered a shutout eighth on one hit. Howell allowed a pair of runs in the ninth on a single, HBP and another single to start the inning, but then retired three straight Hawkeyes, including a strikeout to end the game.
The Huskers ended Iowa starter Sasha Kuebel’s perfect record in Big Ten play, sending Kuebel his first career loss in a Big Ten start. A freshman All-American in 2012, Kuebel was 4-0 in eight conference starts a year ago. On Friday night, the 6-1 lefty lasted 5.0 innings, giving up eight runs (all earned) on eight hits and three walks.
Nebraska’s bats got to work right away with four runs on five hits in the first inning. All nine batters in the NU’s lineup went to plate in the inning, starting with a leadoff double from Sanguinetti. Pat Kelly followed with a single to plate the game’s first run. After Kuebel struck out Michael Pritchard, Chad Christensen singled to put runners at first and second. Darby followed with a slow groundball that allowed Kuebel to erase Christensen at second, but Darby beat the throw to first to put runners on the corners with two down for Kalkowski. The senior first baseman delivered a big swing on a 1-0 pitch from Kuebel that carried over the 367-foot sign in left-center field for Kalkowski’s 10th career home run. Blake Headley followed with a two-out single and Lubach reach on catcher’s interference, before Kuebel got out of the first with a strikeout of Wes Edrington.
After DeLeon stranded a pair or runners in the first, the Hawkeyes put pressure on the junior righty when they loaded the bases with one out. Facing the top of Iowa’s lineup, DeLeon got Eric Toole to pop up and Kris Goodman to groundout, escaping the bases-loaded jam.
Iowa loaded the bases again in the third with three-straight one-out singles, and DeLeon was unable to get out of the inning unscathed. After Taylor Zeutenhorst came through with Iowa’s fourth consecutive single to get the Hawkeyes on the board and DeLeon hit Jake Mangler to force home Taylor Kaufman, cutting Nebraska’s lead in half, 4-2. With the bases still loaded and one down, DeLeon punched out his first batter of the game and followed with a groundout to strand three Hawkeyes.
Kuebel gave back a run in the fourth, as Headley came around to score on a two-out single by Sanguinetti after getting HBP to lead off the inning.
The two-out hits continued for Nebraska in the fifth, this time off the bat of Lubach. Pritchard led off with a single and Christensen followed with a walk, before Kuebel retired consecutive Huskers. Headley worked a full-count walk to load the bases and Lubach blasted the first pitch he saw into the right-field gap to clear the bases, pushing Nebraska’s lead to 8-2. DeLeon came out in the bottom of the fifth and struck out the side, picking up his third, fourth and fifth strikeouts of the night.
Nebraska scored three runs of more in an inning for the third time on the night with a three spot in the seventh. The Huskers loaded the bases with a pair of singles and with Kalkowski’s 13th HBP of the year. Headley worked his second straight walk to force in Christensen, before Lubach and Edrington followed with consecutive RBI fielder’s choices to push the Husker lead to 11-3.
Kelly notched Nebraska’s eight two-out RBI of the night with a single in the top of the ninth that scored Josh Scheffert, who reached earlier in the inning with a pinch-hit HBP.
The Huskers and Hawkeyes return to Duane Banks Field tomorrow for game two of the three-game series at 1:05 p.m.