Christensen completes NU comeback
Corpus Christi, Texas — The Nebraska bullpen threw six innings of shutout baseball and Chad Christensen blasted a two-out, two-RBI double in the top of the ninth inning to propel head coach Darin Erstad's Huskers to a 8-7 win over the UNLV Rebels in the first ever meeting between the two programs. The Huskers ended the weekend with a perfect 4-0 record and improved to 4-3 on the year, as the NU offense scored 35 runs on 54 hits over three days at Whataburger Field.
Trailing 7-3 going into the fourth inning, pitching coach Ted Silva's bullpen quieted the Rebels' bats, as Ryan Hander, Tyler King, Dylan Vogt, Brandon Pierce and Travis Huber kept them off the board and allowed only three hits over the final six innings after the Huskers had yielded seven runs on 10 hits through the first three innings. Pierce picked up his first win of the year, while Huber notched his second save of the season
After failing to close out two games of their own last weekend against Gonzaga in Arizona, the Huskers made their own ninth-inning rally that was started with a leadoff walk by Kale Kiser with Nebraska trailing, 7-6. Rich Sanguinetti moved Kiser into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and Kash Kalkowski was hit by a pitch to give NU runners at first and second with one out. Erstad then inserted Ty Kildow at first for Kalkowski to give NU more speed on bases. The move paid off, as following a fly out from Richard Stock, Christensen belted his second double of the game into the right-centerfield gap to score both Kiser and Kildow to give NU its first lead, 8-7, of the game since the second inning.
Christensen went 3-for-5 on the day and ended the tournament hitting .333 (6-for-18) with a team-high six RBIs and one home run. Stock and Sanguinetti each had two hits and two RBIs in the game, and Stock ended the weekend with a team-high nine hits, including three doubles.
UNLV looked poised to have a big inning in the bottom of the first, but Kubat made some big pitches and escaped the inning with minimal damage. The Husker freshman walked leadoff hitter Scott Dysinger and gave up a single to Mark Shannon to give the Rebels runners at first and third with no outs. Kubat came through with a 4-6-3 double play to get UNLV's No. 3 hitter Trent Cook, but Dysinger scored to put UNLV ahead, 1-0. Kubat was unable to close out the inning with the next batter, though, as the Rebels produced back-to-back singles and Kubat walked Daniel Higa to load the bases with two outs. Kubat dug deep with the count full and caught Scott Tomassetti looking at strike three to limit UNLV's scoring to just one run in the inning.
The Husker offense responded in the top of the second with three runs off three hits. Stock led off with a single, before Christensen and Burleson belted back-to-back doubles, with Stock and Christensen each scoring on Burleson's two-bagger. NU then played small ball, as Austin Darby moved Burleson to third with a sacrifice bunt and freshman Blake Headley came through with the first RBI of his career on a groundout to the right side to score Burleson.
After failing to break though in the first, the Rebels' offense found a rhythm in the third with six runs on six hits. Kubat retired Shannon to start the inning, but was soon pulled by Head Coach Darin Erstad after giving up a walk and a double to the next two UNLV hitters. Fellow freshman Jeff Stovall came in, but the Texas native's luck was no better, as he was blasted for three straight hits. Following a strikeout for the second out of the inning, UNLV added two more hits before Shannon picked up his second out of the inning to end the rally with a line out to Peters at second.
Christensen started the sixth with a leadoff single and it looked as if the Huskers would fail to score a run for the fourth straight inning, but Headley produced a single and Peters drew a walk to load the bases. Kiser followed with another walk to plate Christensen before Sanguinetti roped a two-RBI single through the right side with a full count to cut the UNLV lead to one at 7-6.
The Huskers now return to Lincoln before heading north on Thursday, March 1, to Minneapolis for the Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome. Nebraska will play three games on the weekend, starting with West Virginia at 12:15 p.m. on Friday. NU faces New Mexico State on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. and finishes the weekend with Minnesota on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. Greg Sharpe and Jeff Culhane will call all the action on the Husker Sports Network.