Huskers Face Wolverines in B1G Tournament Opener
Probable Starters: LHP Kyle Kubat (4-0) vs. RHP James Bourque (5-6)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
Up Next for the Huskers
The No. 3 seed Nebraska baseball team opens the 2013 Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at 3:35 p.m. game with the No. 6 seed Michigan Wolverines at Target Field.
The two teams ended the regular season with a three-game series in Lincoln, with the Wolverines taking 2-out-of-3. Michigan punched its ticket to the tournament with a win in the regular-season finale on Saturday.
Nebraska is scheduled to send sophomore lefty Kyle Kubat to the mound on Wednesday, while Michigan is scheduled to start right James Bourque.
Kubat start the series opener last week, while Bourque saw action in a relief role.
The six-team tournament kicks off at 12:05 p.m. on Wednesday, with the No. 4 seed Minnesota Golden Gophers taking on the No. 5 seed Illinois Fighting Illini.
No. 1 seed Indiana and No. 2 seed Ohio State each received byes and will open play on Thursday.
If the Huskers win on Thursday, they will face the Buckeyes at 3:35 p.m. on Thursday. In a loss, the Huskers will play the loser of the Minnesota/Illinois game at 12:05 p.m. on Thursday, with the loser eliminated from the tournament.
On the Radio this Week
Fans across Nebraska and around the world can listen Greg Sharpe and Lane Grindle call all of the action on the Husker Sports Network - including KLIN 1400 AM and 94.5 FM in Lincoln - and on the Internet at Huskers.com or the Official Husker App. A complete list of HSN affiliates can be found on page 12.
TV Coverage this Week
Wednesday’s 3:35 p.m. game with Michigan at Target Field is scheduled to be shown nationally on the Big Ten Network.
Time Warner (SD-24, HD-333)
DISH Network (SD/HD-439)
Every game of the Big Ten Tournament is scheduled to be shown live on BTN.
Web Streams this Week
With the every game of the tournament shown live on the Big Ten Network, fans can also watch live on BTN2Go.com.
Scouting the Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines earned a bid to the Big Ten Tournament after taking 2-of-3 from the Huskers to end the regular season.
The Wolverines are 29-25 overall on the year and end conference play with a 14-10 Big Ten record.
The Wolverines are just 15-17 away from the Wilpon Complex, but eight of the wins have come in neutral site games, as they are just 7-13 in true road games.
On the road in conference play this year, the Wolverines were 5-7.
The Wolverines enter the tournament with a .284 team batting average, with four players hitting over .300 on the year.
Big Ten Player-of-the-Year nominee Michael O’Neill leads the team with a .361 average, while also leading the team in hits with 83, including a Big Ten best 17 doubles. The junior outfielder also leads the team in runs with 45, steals with 23 in 27 attempts and home runs with five, including two against the Huskers last week. The Powell, Ohio, native has driven in 37 runs on the year, five shy of Travis Maezes’ team-high 42 RBIs.
Maezes, a freshman is hitting .316 on the year and is tied Zach Zott for second on the team with three homers. The Ann Arbor product also has 10 doubles, three triples and has stolen 16 bags in 22 attempts.
Fellow freshman Jacob Cronenworth is second on the team in RBIs with 41, while hitting .318 on the year. He has 11 doubles, one triple and two homers, while striking out just 19 times in 195 at-bats.
Cole Martin and Zott each have 20+ RBIs on the year with 22 and 20, respectively.
The Wolverines have 104 steals in 133 attempts on the year, an average of 1.9 steals per game and have laid down 40 sacrifice bunts in 54 games.
Michigan’s bats are patient at the plate with 299 strikeouts, 5.5 per game, while working 191 walks, 3.5 per game.
On the mound, the Wolverines hold a team ERA of 4.03 with 364 strikeouts (6.7 per game) to 235 walks (4.4 per game). They hold opposing batters to a .267 average, while giving up an average of 8.8 hits per game.
Michigan’s defense has cost themselves some runs this year, with 36 unearned runs crossing the plate. On the year, the Wolverines have committed 70 errors, an average of 1.3 per game.
Nebraska is scheduled to face righty James Bourque on Wednesday, who saw action out of the bullpen twice against the Huskers.
After throwing three lefty starters against the Huskers last weekend, the Wolverines will go with a righty starter who has seen most of his action out of the bullpen.
Bourque threw 3.2 scoreless innings of relief in the opener last Thursday, posting six strikeouts, before picking up the final two outs of the finale on Saturday.
The 6-4 sophomore is 5-6 on the year with a 5.00 ERA over 22 appearances, including nine starts. The Ann Arbor native has been part of two combined shutouts and has one save on the year.
In 54.0 inning of work Bourque has given up 34 runs (30 earned) on 55 hits and 33 walks, while striking out 48. Opposing batters are hitting .267 on the year off Bourque, with 11 doubles, one triple and one homer.
Typically, the Wolverines’ bullpen is mostly held down by three pitchers, Bourque, Matt Ogden and Cronenworth. Bourque is tied for the team lead in appearances with 22, while Ogden is close behind with 20
The previously mentioned Cronenworth also works as the team’s closer, leading the team with seven saves. The 6-0 righty has 24 strikeouts in 23.1 innings of work, but has given up 23 hits over 15 appearances.
Get on Base
Preseason All-American Michael Pritchard enters Wednesday’s game against Michigan with a 36-game on-base streak.
The streak betters Pritchard’s 31-game streak from a year ago and tops Rich Sanguinetti’s previous team-high streak this year of 32 games.
It is the longest game by a Husker since 2006, when Luke Gorsett reached in 48 straight games.
Since 2000, 10 Huskers have reached base in 30 or more consecutive games during a season.
Let’s Play Another
After wrapping up the regular-season with the Michigan Wolverines, the Huskers will see the Wolverines for a fourth-straight game to star the Big Ten Tournament.
The last time the Huskers ended the season against a conference foe and then opened with the same team at the conference tournament was in 2001 against Iowa State.
The Huskers lost 2-of-3 at Iowa State, but then beat the Cyclones in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament, 5-2, on their way to the tournament title.
Nebraska will be looking for a repeat performance on Wednesday after dropping 2-of-3 to the Wolverines to end the 2013 regular season.
Extending the Season
After missing out on the postseason for three-straight seasons from 2009-2011, the Huskers qualified for the Big Ten Tournament a year ago.
With a second-straight trip conference tournament this season, the Huskers have qualified for the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007-2008.
One Tough Out
Chad Christensen has been tough on opposing pitchers all season, as the senior is tied with teammate Pat Kelly for hits (75) and is fifth in the Big Ten in batting average (.362).
During conference play, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native has been even better, as he leads all players in hits (44), batting average (.431), runs (26) and is second in on-base percentage (.483).
Christensen’s .438 average is tops in the league since 2009 when Purdue’s Brandon Haveman hit .464.
Since 1939, only six times has a player finished the season with the top average in the conference during league play with an average of .480 or better.
Solid with the Glove
Nebraska’s defense has played solid behind its pitching staff this season, committing 40 errors in 2,081 chances through 53 games.
The Huskers enter the week with the fourth-best fielding percentage in the country at .981, just fractions behind national-leader Mercer (.982).
Ohio State is second in the Big Ten Conference in fielding at .976, which ranks 25th nationally.
Debut with a Double
Rich Sanguinetti has hit a double in Nebraska’s first at-bat of a game five times this year, including four times during Big Ten play.
The Huskers have won each game when Sanguinetti has led off the Huskers’ first inning with a double.
The Crafty Lefty
After being sidelined with shoulder soreness for the first 33 games of the 2013 campaign, sophomore Kyle Kubat is 4-0 in six starts for the Huskers, including wins over No. 10 Arkansas and No. 16 Indiana.
The sophomore lefty carries a 2.15 ERA into Wednesday, giving up 11 runs (eight earned) on 28 hits in 37.2 innings of work.
Kubat holds a 9-1 career record, with his only loss coming in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament opener to Ohio State.
The Waterloo, Neb., native has gone at least 6.0 innings in his past four starts, including a career-high 8.0 innings in a win over Rutgers on April 28.
After allowing at least one walk in each of his first five starts of the year, Kubat didn’t walk a batter in the series opener against Michigan last week, while striking out a season-high five.
Kubat made his 2013 season debut on Tuesday, April 16 against the No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks in the first game of a doubleheader.
A freshman All-American last year and third-team All-Big Ten pick, Kubat dealt 5.0 innings of no hit ball. Kubat retired the first six Arkansas batters he faced, before issuing a leadoff walk in the third. He then sat down seven straight, before hitting Isaac Hellbusch with two out in the fifth.
Tyler Niederklein and Dylan Vogt combined to through 4.0 innings of no-hit ball down the stretch to finish off NU’s first no hitter in over 20 years.
Last season during conference play, Kubat was 4-0 with a 1.57 ERA in six appearances, including three starts.
Climbing the Hit List
Earlier this season, senior Chad Christensen became the 14th player in Nebraska history to join the 200-hit club with his walk-off single in the bottom of the 16th inning against Northwestern on Friday, March 29.
On the year, Christensen leads the Huskers with a .362 average (75-for-207) and is second on the team with 35 RBIs, three behind Kash Kalkowski’s team-high 38 RBIs.
Prior to Christensen, Jake Opitz was the last Husker to join the club, as he ended his four-year career in 2008 with 227 career hits.
Christensen is tied with current Kansas City Royal Alex Gordon for nine on NU’s career-hits list and needs two hits to tie Mark Kister (1985-87) for eighth on the career list.
Matt Hopper holds the school record with 338 career hits and is one of just two players in school history to have topped 300 hits. Jeff Leise sits second on the career charts with 305 career hits.
The Huskers are 25-28 in 2013, but 16 of their 28 losses have come by two runs or less, including nine losses by one run. The Huskers are 7-16 in games decided by two runs or less.
Lincoln native Tanner Lubach enters the Big Ten Tournament playing his best baseball of the year.
The sophomore transfer from Hutchinson CC enters Wednesday’s game on an eight-game hitting streak that started on May 5 against Indiana.
During the stretch, Lubach is hitting 14-for-29 (.483) with five multi-hit games. He has also produced in 10 of his 23 RBIs on the season during the eight-game stretch.
Pritch in Rhythm
Preseason All-American Michael Pritchard played in the first two games of the 2013 season, but then missed 10 games with an oblique injury.
A third-team All-American a year ago, Pritchard was just 6-for-28 (.214) in his first seven games back in the Husker lineup.
He has since found his groove and enters the tournament with a .343 average on the year, ranking second on the team to Chad Christensen’s .362 average.
Over the past 34 games entering Wednesday, Pritchard is second on the team with a .379 average and has a team-high 11 doubles.
During the stretch, Pritchard put together a 20-game hitting streak that started on March 22 at Illinois and was snapped on April 26 at Creighton.
Prior to the 2013 season, Pritchard was selected as the second-team designated hitter on the 2013 NCBWA Preseason All-America team. The Omaha native was tabbed as a third-team All-American by the same publication following the 2012 season.
The last Husker to earn All-America accolades in consecutive seasons was Alex Gordon, who was a first-team selection by multiple publications in 2004 and 2005.
Money at the Plate
Senior Kash Kalkowski turned into an RBI machine during Big Ten play, as the Grand Island native led all players during conference play with 27 RBIs.
The 6-1 first baseman had at least one RBI in 15 of his 24 Big Ten Conference games, and produced at least a pair of RBIs seven times. He delivered four RBIs in a league game twice in 2013, including at home against Ohio State (4/12) and at Purdue (4/20).
Overall on the season, Kalkowski enters the weekend tied for 11th in the league with 37 RBIs.
During the 24-game Big Ten season the Huskers lead the conference in six offensive categories.
The Husker offense posted a .335 batting average, scored 180 runs, notched 307 hits, drove in 159 runs, produced 17 sacrifice flies and got on base at a .401 clip.
In Nebraska’s first 19 games of the season, the Huskers averaged 7.5 hits per game, but nearly doubled the total with 12.8 hits per game during conference play.
Since taking over as Nebraska’s primary leadoff hitter at Cal State Fullerton on March 19, Rich Sanguinetti has turned around his season senior season.
Over the past 36 games, Sanguinetti is third on the team with a .351 batting average and has failed to reach base in a game only twice.
The senior from Arlington, Texas, has produced six doubles, one homer and 15 RBIs. He has posted a .420 on-base percentage and is slugging .409.
Since switching to the leadoff spot, Sanguinetti has seen his overall season average rise nearly .130 points from .175 to .303, which ranks fourth on the team.
A first-team All-Big Ten pick a year ago, Sanguinetti is third on the team with 16 multi-hit games in the 36-game stretch, including a four-hit game and six, three-hit games.
Over Nebraska’s first 17 games of the season, Sanguinetti hit .175 with just two multi-hit games.
The Huskers went on the road and won each of their four Big Ten Conference road series, posting a 9-3 record.
The last time the Huskers won every road series during a conference season was in 2005, when they won all four of their Big 12 Conference road series. That season the Huskers were 8-4 on the road in conference play.
Following a freshman season that saw him post 51 hits and a .313 batting average on his way to being named second-team All-Big Ten and a freshman All-American by four publications, Pat Kelly avoided a sophomore slump in 2013.
Kelly is tied with teammate Chad Christensen for fourth in the league with 75 hits on the year, including 43 hits during conference play, which ranks second to Christensen’s 44 hits.
Second baseman Pat Kelly earned four freshman All-America accolades in 2012, the most for any Husker freshman in school history.
Kelly enters the weekend with a .326 average, with 10 doubles, one triple, one homer and 28 RBIs.
Previously, Matt Hopper collected the most All-America awards following a freshman season with three in 2000, when he was honored by Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and Baseball Weekly.
A native of Red Wing, Minn., Kelly was a first-team freshman All-American by both Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He was a second-team freshman All-America selection by Perfect Game and was named to Collegiate Baseball freshman All-America list.
Freshman teammate Kyle Kubat was also one of 32 starting pitchers named a Collegiate Baseball freshman All-American.
Kelly’s and Kubat’s selections marked the first time since 2005 that the Huskers had a player earn freshman All-America honors, as pitchers Johnny Dorn and Tony Watson were each picked by Collegiate Baseball and Dorn was a first-team pick by Baseball America.
Hot Corner for Headley
Since Josh Scheffert got hurt in Nebraska’s second Big Ten game of the season, sophomore Blake Headley has stepped in a third base and made the most of his opportunity.
The Omaha native hit .337 in 23 Big Ten games with four doubles and 14 RBIs.
He led all Big Ten third basemen with just two errors on the season.