LINCOLN – Sundays are Nebraska’s thing.
At least, that’s what Jake Hohensee thinks.
“We’re good at responding after a tough loss,” he said. “I mean, just keep that up and I wouldn’t mind winning on Sundays every time, so it was nice.”
Nebraska (11-8) kept their Sunday winning streak alive, defeating Northwestern State 7-6 on Sunday afternoon at Haymarket Park after dropping Saturday’s series opener 6-2.
The Huskers have lost their last four series openers, but haven’t lost a series finale since May 8, 2016.
“Obviously, it’s my job to get them ready to play and I haven’t found the right buttons to push yet (on series openers),” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “It seems like when we have days off, we come in just not as sharp as we normally are, and then once we get punched in the face a couple of times, we tend to get a little angry, so we’ve got to get that going a little sooner.
“It’s in there. I mean, they have the ability to play high-level baseball. Give credit to Northwestern State. They kept fighting, they didn’t go away and it was a good game.”
After a scoreless first two innings, the Huskers blew the game open with a six-run frame in the bottom of the third. The inning was sparked by a bases-clearing grand slam by sophomore catcher Luke Roskam.
It was Roskam’s first home run this season, and he finished 2-of-3 at the plate Sunday with a run scored and four RBIs. He finished the two-game series going 4-of-7 with a pair of runs scored.
“I just got into a two-strike count,” Roskam said of his grand slam at-bat. “Yesterday, they tried to go inside on me a lot, so the one I fouled off was an inside pitch, and I kind of figured it was going to be an inside fastball or a curveball and I just reacted to an inside fastball, got barrel on it and it went out.”
Northwestern State punched back in a hurry, scoring two runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth to make it a 6-5 ballgame. The rally was sparked by a two-run homer by sophomore right fielder Tyler Smith in the top of the fifth.
Smith had a solid series as well, going a combined 5-of-8 in the two-game series, including 2-of-4 on Sunday with a pair of runs scored.
Nebraska added insurance in the bottom of the seventh with a sacrifice fly from junior shortstop Angelo Altavilla, which scored sophomore Mojo Hagge.
Hagge hit 4-of-9 in the two games this weekend, scoring one run in each outing.
Nebraska’s bullpen did the rest after that. Redshirt freshman Paul Tillotson struck out the side in the top of the eighth, and senior Jake Hohensee earned his fourth save of the year in the ninth.
It wasn’t all stress-free for Hohensee. Northwestern State’s Kelsey Richard hit a one-out solo shot homer to left field to bring the tying run to the plate, but a pair of ground outs in the following at-bats preserved the win.
“It was nice to put everything together,” Hohensee said. “Clean fielding game. Got a few hits there and we needed the extra run in the late inning, so that was good. Good team win today.”
Senior Matt Warren (3-0) made his fifth start on the mound on Sunday, lasting 5.0 innings and surrendering six hits, five earned runs, three strikeouts and two walks in 81 pitches thrown.
He exited with Nebraska leading 6-5, and since the Huskers never trailed, he was credited with the win.
Warren was a little shaky in last Saturday’s 13-2 win over Cal Poly, throwing three strikeouts, allowing three hits, two runs and two walks in 5.2 innings, but Erstad saw a step in the right direction on Sunday.
“It was sharper,” Erstad said. “I think he was a little more angry. (Northwestern State) did a nice job of fighting him, but the stuff did hold a little bit better which was good to see.”
Nebraska has another quick turnaround, going on the road to Tulsa, OK to face Oral Roberts (11-6) in a two-game midweek series. First pitch Tuesday is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday’s game will start at 1 p.m.
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.