Huskers rally, but fall in extra innings
Josh Scheffert and Kurt Farmer each tied career highs with three hits on the day, while Chad Christensen drove in a team-high three runs, all with two outs. On the year, 10 of Christensen's team-leading 15 RBIs have come with two outs. Richard Stock continued to come through in clutch situations, as he pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth and drove in a pair of runs on a single to tie the game at 8-8.
With NU trailing 8-4 going into the bottom of the eighth, Head Coach Darin Erstad pinch hit Michael Pritchard for catcher Sam Stucky and the sophomore got the inning going with a base hit. Following a groundout and a strikeout, Rich Sanguinetti came through with a two-out triple to plate Pritchard, and Christensen followed with a single to score Sanguinetti, cutting the Cal lead to two at 8-6 entering the ninth.
Luke Bublitz and Brandon Pierce shared the top of the ninth and kept the Bears off the board, including an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to give the Huskers momentum into the bottom of the frame. Scheffert led off with a single and Farmer reached on an error by the Bears' first baseman to give NU runners at first and second with no outs. Austin Darby then moved his teammates into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. After Cory Burleson grounded out for the second out of the inning, Stock delivered his two-out pinch-hit single to tie the game.
NU's momentum continued into the top of the 10th with Travis Huber on the mound, as the junior righty mowed down the Bears in order to give NU a shot at winning the game in the bottom of the 10th. Kash Kalkowski reached on a one-out single but got stuck at first and the game went to the 11th, still tied at 8-8. The Bears loaded the bases with their first three hitters off a single, a double and an intentional walk to Andrew Knapp. The strategy worked for the Huskers on the next batter when Chad Bunting grounded into a fielder's choice and Christensen threw out Vince Bruno at home for the first out of the inning, but Danny Oh followed with a two-run single that proved to be the game winner. The Bears added one more run on a passed ball.
Cal jumped out to a 7-0 lead after three innings, scoring one run in both the first and second frames before exploding for five runs in the top of the third. NU starter Zach Hirsch looked to be finally settling in with a runner on first and two outs in the third, but the Bears rattled off five straight two-out hits, including back-to-back home runs.
The Husker bullpen came to the rescue and gave up just one run on eight hits over the next seven innings to give the NU offense a chance to chip away at the Bears.
The Huskers got back into the game in the bottom of the fifth with four runs off five hits, including four hits with two outs. Stucky reached on a one-out walk and then scored the Huskers' first run on a single by Bryan Peters. Christensen drove in both Peters and Kiser, who was hit by a pitch, with a two-out double, and Kalkowski knocked in Christensen with a single. Farmer and Scheffert followed with a pair of singles to load the bases, but Darby was unable to keep the inning going with a check-swing strikeout.
The two teams will be back at Hawks Field at 2:05 p.m. Saturday for game two of the four-game series. The Huskers are set to send Jon Keller to the mound, while the Bears will counter with Matt Flemer.