Kelly, Pierce lead NU to series win
After popping a two-run homer in the series opener last night, Kelly broke a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning on a solo shot into the right-field bullpen. Brandon Pierce then came into the game and retired nine straight Gophers to pick up his second save of the season.
Batting in the leadoff spot for just the third time this season, Kelly led the Huskers with a career-high four hits in five at bats. His seven home runs this season are the most by an NU freshman since Alex Gordon hit seven in 2003.
The Huskers are now tied with Michigan State for fourth place in the Big Teng, while Penn State and Indiana are each one game ahead and tied for second with 12-8 records. Ohio State sits sixth in the standings (11-10), while the Gophers are on the outside looking in with a 10-10 record. Purdue secured at least a share of the Big Ten title Saturday with its 14-3 win over Michigan.
The Huskers are in position to sweep their first Big Ten series when the two teams meet again at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Hawks Field. NU has yet to announce its starting pitcher, while Minnesota is scheduled to throw senior righty Austin Lubinsky.
The Huskers faced Lubinsky when the two teams met at the Dairy Queen Classic on March 4 at the Metrodome. Lubinsky went just 3.0 innings in the 10-3 UM loss, giving up seven runs on 10 hits.
The Husker hitters knocked around Minnesota's starter for the second straight game, as DJ Snelton lasted just 3.2 innings after giving up seven runs, all earned, on eight hits, both of which tied career highs against Snelton.
All but one starter in NU's lineup recorded a hit, while the first four batters accounted for five RBIs and Cory Burleson knocked in a pair of runs from the 9-hole with a bases-loaded double in the fourth.
Speaking the fourth, the Huskers continued to light up opposing pitching with a seven-run fourth on Saturday and have now outscored their opponents 79-17 in the fourth inning this season. After Kash Kalkowski was retired to start the inning, Richard Stock, Josh Scheffert and Rich Sanguinetti each slapped singles to load the bases. Kale Kiser then drew a four-pitch walk to score NU's first run of the game and tie the contest at 1-1. Burleson followed with his RBI double and Kelly singled to put runners on the corners with one out and Michael Pritchard up.
The Huskers kept the pressure up with a squeeze that scored Burleson and Pritchard reached first. Associate head coach Will Bolt then dialed up a double steal from the third-base coaching box, giving NU runners at second and third with still only one down and Chad Christensen at the plate. The move paid off, as Christensen delivered his 45th RBI of the season with a sacrifice fly that scored Kelly from third. Pritchard scored the seventh run of the inning on a double by Kalkowski in his second at bat of the inning.
Trailing 7-1 going into the sixth, the Gophers came storming back with six runs on six hits. With only one run across and two out, Bobby Juan drew a walk to put runners at first and second for No. 7 hitter Michael Handel. UM strung together four straight hits, including two doubles, to tie the game at 7-7 going to the bottom of the frame.
After Burleson popped out to start the inning, Kelly lifted a 2-1 pitch off Dustin Klabunde into the visitor's bullpen to put the Huskers back in front, 8-7. Pierce entered the game in relief for the first time since March 31 and mowed down the Gophers, including a pair of strikeouts looking in the ninth, to secure a series win for the Huskers.
R H E ------------------------------------------- Minnesota .......... 100 006 000 - 7 10 1 Nebraska ........... 000 701 00X - 8 11 1 -------------------------------------------