Huskers Host Illini in Pivotal Big Ten Showdown
Thursday, May 15 – 6:35 p.m. (CT)
Probable Starters: RHP Sinclair (8-1) vs. RHP Johnson (5-5)
Stream: Free Radio (Huskers.com) | Video Stream (HuskersNSide)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
Friday, May 16 – 6:35 p.m. (CT)
Probable Starters: LHP Bummer (6-3) vs. LHP Duchene (2-1)
Stream: Free Radio (Huskers.com) | Video Stream (BTN.com)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
Saturday, May 17 – 1:05 p.m. (CT)
Probable Starters: LHP Kubat (4-2) vs. RHP Kravetz (6-1)
TV: BTN (Same day tape delay at 5 p.m.)
Stream: Free Radio (Huskers.com) | Video Stream (BTN2Go.com - Live)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
Up Next for the Huskers
Following a sweep at Michigan State, the No. 26 ranked Nebraska baseball team (35-17, 16-5 Big Ten) returns to Hawks Field to host the Illinois Fighting Illini (30-17, 16-5 Big Ten) for a three-game series that opens on Thursday at 6:35 p.m.
It will be the third Big Ten series between the two teams, who opened conference play against each other the past two seasons. The Huskers have won both series, taking 2-of-3 at home in 2012, while also taking 2-of-3 in Champaign last year.
With three games left in the regular season, the Huskers and Illini enter the week tied for the No. 2 spot in the Big Ten Conference. Neither team can fall lower than the No. 3 seed at the Big Ten Tournament, while the winner of this week’s series will secure at least the No. 2 seed.
If either team sweeps this weekend and the Indiana Hoosiers are swept at home by the Minnesota Golden Gophers, then the Husker or Illini could earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. The Hoosiers are three games ahead of both the Huskers and Illini with a 19-2 league record.
This week’s series runs Thursday-Friday-Saturday, which gives teams three days off before the Big Ten Tournament starts on Wednesday, May 21, in Omaha at TD Ameritrade Park.
Following Thursday’s series opener, the Huskers and Illini will battle on Friday at 6:35 p.m., with the game televised live across the state of Nebraska on NET.
Saturday’s finale is Senior Day at Hawks Field and is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. The Big Ten Network will show the game on tape delay at 5 p.m. on Saturday, while fans unable to get to Hawks Field can watch the game live on BTN2Go.
Huskers’ Weekend Rotation
Chance Sinclair is scheduled to make his 14th start of the season on Thursday, and will be in search of his ninth win of the year. The junior is 8-1 and ranks third in the Big Ten with a .193 ERA
Sinclair is coming off his 12th start of at least 6.0 innings, following a 7.0-inning outing at Michigan State.
Sinclair is one of three pitchers in the Big Ten with an ERA under 2.00, as Ohio State’s Tanner Tully leads the league with a 1.79 ERA and Indiana’s Joey DeNato ranks second with a 1.91 ERA.
Junior lefty Aaron Bummer is scheduled to start Friday and is coming off consecutive starts of 7.0 innings or more against Penn State (7.0) and Michigan State (7.1).
His back-to-back starts of 7.0 innings or more of work against the Nittany Lions and Spartans came after starts of 5.1 and 3.2 innings against Michigan and Northwestern, respectively.
Bummer has gone at least 7.0 innings in five of his last seven starts, including his first career complete game against Ohio State on April 6.
With Christian DeLeon out of the weekend rotation for the third straight week, Kyle Kubat is scheduled to climb the hill for Nebraska in Saturday’s series finale for the third straight week.
The junior lefty is 4-2 on the year with a 4.84 ERA and is coming off a win at Michigan State, his first in conference play this year.
Kubat is in search of his first 7.0-inning outing of the year, as he has gone 6.0 or more innings three in 10 starts this season.
On the Radio this Week
Fans across Nebraska and around the world can listen to 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 live on the Internet at Huskers.com or the Official Husker App.
TV Coverage this Week
Illinois, Friday - NET
Illinois, Saturday - BTN (same day tape delay at 5 p.m.)
Web Streams this Week
Illinois, Thursday - HuskersNSide
Illinois, Friday - BTN.com
Illinois, Saturday - BTN2Go.com
Nebraska-Illinois Series History
Nebraska holds a slim 4-3 advantage in the all-time series that started in 1897.
The Illini won at home, 14-9, in 1897 and then the teams didn’t meet again for 115 years until the Huskers joined the Big Ten Conference.
Illinois won the first ever meeting between the teams as conference foes, taking the Huskers Big Ten opener in 2012 by a score of 11-3. The Huskers bounced back and won the series with 18-5 and 13-3 victories.
Nebraska then opened league play at Illinois last season and took the series. The Huskers won the opener, 9-5, and then the teams played a doubleheader. Illinois won game one on a walk-off sacrifice squeeze, 8-7, before bouncing back with a 6-4 in the game two of the double dip.
The teams have never met at the Big Ten Tournament or NCAA Tournament.
Over the Past 10 Games for Nebraska
• Nebraska was 9-1, including a 3-0 home record and a 8-1 Big Ten record
• Nebraska’s offense worked 43 walks and was HBP five times, while striking out 43 times.
• Pat Kelly hit .444 (16-for-36) with five doubles and two home runs
• Pat Kelly notched 18 of the Huskers’ 60 RBIs, while
• Blake Headley hit .342 (13-for-38) with two doubles and one homer
• Pat Kelly had six multi-hit games and Blake Headley had five
• Five Huskers had double-digit hits, including Pat Kelly (16), Blake Headley (13), Ryan Boldt (13), Michael Pritchard (12), Ryan Boldt (12) and Austin Darby (10).
• Nebraska pitchers totaled 66 strikeouts, while walking 29
• Nebraska posted a .299 batting average, while holding opponents to a .212 average
• Closer Josh Roeder threw 5.0 innings of scoreless relief over five appearances and earned four saves
• Nebraska’s pitching staff posted a 2.07 ERA, while opposing pitchers were at a 5.93 ERA
• Nebraska outscored opponents 61-27
If you could only use one word to describe Head Coach Darin Erstad, the word would be “grind”.
No matter what the score is, Erstad preaches to his team that they need to grind at-bats and stick to the team’s offensive approach.
A total of 11 times this year the Huskers have been behind or tied after six innings and have come back to win.
2/14 vs. Pacific | Tied 3-3 after 6th, won 5-3
- Scored twice in bottom of 7th
3/8 vs. St. Johns | Tied 6-6 after 7th, won 7-6
- Walk off single by Taylor Fish
3/15 vs. UC Irvine | Tied 2-2 after 6th, won 7-4
- UC Irvine took 3-2 lead top of 7th, Huskers responded with 3 runs bottom 7th and 2 in bottom 8th
3/19 vs. Creighton | Down 4-3 bottom 10, won 5-4
- After NU tied the game 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Creighton took a 4-3 lead top of 10. Huskers answered with 2 in the bottom of the 10, including a walk-off single by Jake Placzek
4/1 vs. Ohio State | Down 2-0 after 7, won 3-2
- Trailing 2-0 headed bottom of 8, Huskers scored 3 runs to win 3-2
4/2 vs. Ohio State | Down 3-0 after 7, won 4-3
- Trailing 2-0 after 7, the Huskers scored 1 in the 8th and 3 in the 9th, including a walk-off single by Michael Pritchard to win 4-3
4/3 vs. Ohio State | Tied 1-1 after 8, won 2-1
- With the game tied 1-1 after 4, the Huskers won the game 2-1 in the 9th on a walk-off single by Tanner Lubach
4/8 at Creighton | Down 2-1 after 7, won 4-2
- Trailing 2-1 headed to the 8th, Huskers scored 3 runs and won the game 4-3
4/11 at Minnesota | Tied 6-6 after 7, won 8-6
- After NU took a 5-0 lead after 2 innings, Minnesota tied the game 6-6 after 7. Huskers scored 2 in the top of the 9th to win 8-6
4/13 at Minnesota | Down 2-1 after 6, won 3-2 in 10
- Down 2-1 after 6 innings, Huskers tied the game 2-2 in the top of the 7th. Huskers won the game 3-2 in 10 innings after scoring in the top of the 10th
4/19 vs. Northwestern | Tied 9-9 after 7, won 10-9
- Tied 9-9 after 7 innings, Blake Headley delivered a sac fly in the bottom of the 8th and Josh Roeder picked up his 8th save of the year to avoid a sweep by the Wildcats
4/26 at Michigan | Tied 1-1 after 7, won 3-1
- Tied 1-1 after 7 innings, Steven Reveles delivered a 1-out sacrifice fly and Taylor Fish added an RBI single in the top of the 8th
Huskers Get Hot in April & May
Since the calendar rolled over to the month of April, the Huskers have been one of the hottest teams in the country, posting a 21-5 mark after starting the season 15-12.
Nebraska is 6-0 in the month of May after sweeping Penn State and Michigan State.
Win No. 100
Head Coach Darin Erstad enters Nebraska’s series with Illionis with 99 career wins. His next victory will make him the fifth head baseball coach in Nebraska history with 100 career wins.
NU Baseball Coaches with 100 Wins
John Sanders 767 (1978-1997)
Tony Sharpe 394 (1947-1977)
Mike Anderson 337 (2003-2011)
Dan Van Horn 214 (1998-2002)
Going for Four
With three straight series wins over Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State, the Huskers will try to win their fourth straight conference series this week.
The Huskers last won fourth straight series as a member of the Big 12 Conference in 2008.
Nebraska opened league play with series wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. The streak came to an end when NU dropped 2-of-3 at Oklahoma State.
Join the Club
Senior Michael Pritchard joined Nebraska’s 200-hit club on Friday, March 21, with a first inning single at Iowa and was recently joined by Pat Kelly, who picked up his 200th career hit with a single against Michigan State on Sunday, May 11.
Entering this season, only 20 players in school history were in the program’s 200-hit club.
Pritchard enters the week ranked 12th in school history with 239 and is one hit shy of tying Alex Gordon (2003-05) for 11th in school history. Pritchard needs four hits to pass Mark Kister (1992-95) for 10th on the career chart.
Kelly, a junior, ranks 22nd in school history with exactly 22 hits and needs a pair of hits to pass Francis Collins (1995-97) for 21st on the career chart. Kelly totaled a team-high 85 hits last season and his 64 hits this season lead the team, one ahead of Pritchard’s 63 hits.
Last season, Chad Christensen became the 20th 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. He ended his career eighth in school history with 247 career hits.
Prior to Christensen, Jake Opitz was the last Husker to join the club in 2008.
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.
NU 200-Career Hit Club
1. 338 Matt Hopper 2000-03
2. 305 Jeff Leise 2000-03
3. 281 Will Bolt 1999-02
4. 261 Darin Erstad 1993-95
5. 250 Paul Meyers 1984-86
6. 249 Joe Simokaitis 2002-05
7. 248 Jed Dalton 1992-95
8. 247 Chad Christensen 2010-13
9. 246 Darin Petersen 1992-95
10. 242 Mark Kister 1985-87
11. 240 Alex Gordon 2003-05
12. 239 Michael Pritchard 2011-present
13. 238 DJ Belfonte 2007-10
14. 234 Todd Sears 1995-97
15. 231 Daniel Bruce 2002-05
16. 229 Ken Ramos 1987-89
17. 227 Jake Opitz 2005-08
18. 223 Curtis Ledbetter 2003-05
19. 222 John Cole 1999-01
20. 203 Ken Harvey 1997-99
21. 201 Francis Collins 1995-97
22. 200 Pat Kelly 2012-present
2014 Senior Class
Seven seniors will play their final games at Hawks Field this week and each has been a part of NU’s success this season.
The senior class has combined to play in 504 games entering Thursday’s series opener, have been a part teams that won 156 games and have helped the Huskers quality for three-straight Big Ten Tournament, including this year.
Get out the Brooms
Following consecutive sweeps of Penn State and Michigan State, the Huskers have swept four Big Ten series this season after also taking three games at Minnesota and three games at home from Ohio State.
Nebraska last posted four conference sweeps in the same season in 2000, when the Huskers swept four straight Big 12 series against Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M and Iowa State.
The Huskers have never swept five conference series in the same season.
Like Your Chances with Sinclair
Junior Chance Sinclair has been a key addition to the Husker pitching staff in 2014 with his 8-1 record and an 1.87 ERA, which ranks 67th nationally and third in the Big Ten Conference.
A transfer from Neosho County CC, Sinclair has gone 6.0 or more innings in 11 of his 13 starts, including seven outings of 7.0 innings or more and a 9.0-inning complete game against Ohio State.
Rely on Roeder
Since blowing a save at Iowa on March 21, junior closer Josh Roeder has converted nine straight save opportunities and enters the week ranked 13th in the country with 12 saves on the year.
In nine save chances since the Iowa game, Roeder hasn’t allowed a run over 9.1 innings of work and has struck out 13 batters, while walking just one.
On the year, Roeder is 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA over 17.2 innings of work. He has struck out 20 and walked five.
Nebraska is 28-1 this year when leading after the eighth inning.
Nebraska enters its series with Illinois on a seven-game winnings streak. Its the longest streak by the Huskers since 2011 when they also won seven straight from March 16-25.
The last time NU won more than seven games in a row was during the 2008 season when the Huskers rolled off 14 straight wins from Feb. 29 - March 18.
Loves the Big Ten
Junior infield Blake Headley enjoys playing in the Big Ten Conference, evident by his batting average in conference play.
Last season, Headley hit .284 on the year, but elevated his game during conference play with a .337 average.
This season, Headley is hitting a hearty .344 on the year and ranks seventh in the Big Ten with a .370 average during league play.
Michael Pritchard has been a hit machine during his career at Nebraska, producing 232 career hits. Earlier this season he fell into a slump, but since found his stroke at the plate.
Pritchard was hitting .407 after the Huskers’ first two weeks of play and was at .373 after a 3-for-5 day against Northern Colorado on March 11, NU’s 14th game of the season.
Over his next 16 games, Pritchard went 9-for-60 with only two multi-hit games and saw his average fall to .261 on April 6.
Over his past 20 games entering Thursday, Pritchard has raised his average 56 points to .317.
He is hitting .400 during the stretch (32-for-80) with eight multi-hit games, including a career-high 5-for-5 night against Kansas State on April 15.
During the 20-game stretch Pritchard has 11 doubles and has notched 20 of his 41 RBIs on the season.
In 2014, Pritchard has 10 multi-RBI games, two more than the eight he had during his first three seasons at Nebraska combined.
Pencil Him In
Junior Pat Kelly has been a regular in the Husker lineup ever since he was a freshman in 2012.
Entering the weekend, Kelly has started 125 straight games dating back to his freshman season.
Kelly has started all 52 games this season and was in the starting lineup for all 59 games in 2013. Kelly started 41 games as a freshman in 2012, including the final 14 games of the year.
The last time Kelly didn’t start was on April 28, 2012, when he didn’t play in the second game of a doubleheader against CSU Bakersfield.
Extending the Season
The Huskers punched their ticket to their third straight Big Ten Tournament on Sunday, May 4 with their win over Penn State. The Huskers failed to reach the Big 12 Tournament during their final three seasons in the league from 2009-2011.
The last time the Huskers made three-straight trips to the conference tournament was 2006-2007-2008.
Nebraska is also looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
Hitting the Century Mark
Junior Pat Kelly became the 43rd Husker since 1986 to notch 100 RBIs for their career when he drove in a run in the first game of a doubleheader with Northwestern on April 19.
Michael Pritchard needs 12 more RBIs in 2014 to also join the club.
Kash Kalkowski (123), Chad Christensen (118) and Josh Scheffert (113) all joined the club last season. Prior to the three seniors in 2012, Cody Asche was the last to join in 2011, ending his career with 135 RBIs
Matt Hopper is the only Husker to ever top the 200-RBI mark, with a school-record 271 RBIs.
Lean on Hirsch
Zach Hirsch has been one of Nebraska’s best arms out of the bullpen in 2014.
For his efforts he was one of 50 relievers in the nation recently named to the NCBWA Mid-Season Stopper of the Year Award Watch List.
The one-time starter has made a team-high 25 appearances, all out of the pen, in 2014 and holds a 1.37 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .188 average over 39.1 innings of work. Hirsch is also tied with starter Aaron Bummer for the team lead in strikeouts (42), while walking just 11.
Earlier this season the senior lefty had a streak of 14.1 innings of scoreless relief before Minnesota scored a run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh on April 11 that tied the game 6-6. The Huskers still won the game, 8-6.
Since the Minnesota game, Hirsch has allowed two earned runs on six hits over 12.0 innings of relief in eight appearances.
Over Hirsch’s last five appearances, he has thrown 7.0 innings of scoreless relief on three hits and six strikeouts.
Hirsch has 16 appearances this season where he has thrown at least an inning of relief and hasn’t given up a run. In nine of those appearances he hasn’t given up a hit.
As of Wednesday morning, Nebraska had an RPI of 33 according to the WarrenNolan.com.
The Huskers have an 12-7 record against top-100 RPI teams, including a 6-5 record against top-50 RPI teams.
Nebraska has three games left against teams in the RPI top-100, as Illinois enters the week with an RPI of 52.
RPI Top-100 Wins
Oregon State - 1 (RPI 7)
Washington - 1 (RPI 23)
UC Irvine - 2 (RPI 25)
UNLV - 1 (RPI 35)
Arkansas - 1 (RPI 49)
Creighton - 2 (RPI 81)
Kansas State - 1 (RPI 96)
Ohio State - 3 (RPI 99)
Nebraska’s RPI has been hurt a bit by three losses to teams with an RPI of 200 or worse. The Huskers are 7-3 in games against RPI 200+ teams
RPI 200+ Losses
Northwestern - 2 (RPI 236)
Northern Colorado - 1 (RPI 299)
Big Ten Bats
Nebraska’s has one of the best offenses in not only the Big Ten Conference, but also nationally.
Through Sunday, nationally Nebraska ranked:
Hits - 14th (532)
Average - 18th (.302)
Runs - 29th (317)
Triples - 26th (17)
Through Wednesday, the Huskers rank first in the Big Ten in six major categories, including:
Average (.302) - Indiana 2nd (.299)
Hits (540) - Indiana 2nd (507)
Runs (321) - Indiana 2nd (304)
RBIs (294) - Indiana 2nd (280)
Walks (196) - Michigan 2nd (189)
Sac Bunts (50) - Northwestern 2nd (47)
The Huskers have produced double-digit hits 28 times this year in 52 games, including 14 of their 24 home games.
The Huskers are 23-5 when notching double-digit hits on the season.
Nebraska produced a season-high 22 hits on Tuesday April 15, in a 14-5 win over Kansas State. It was the most hits by a Husker offense since 2012, when the Huskers notched 24 hits in a 22-3 win over Louisiana Tech.
Nebraska is 27-1 this year when they out hit their opponent, with the lone loss coming against Oregon State in the second game of the year. The Huskers out hit the Beavers 15-13.
Go the Distance
Nebraska’s rotation of Christian DeLeon, Chance Sinclair and Aaron Bummer were workhorses in a three-game sweep of Ohio State April 4-6, as all three pitchers tossed complete games.
No other staff in the country has thrown three 9.0-inning complete games in a weekend. Monmouth is the only other team that has come close with two 9.0-inning complete games along with a 7.0-inning complete game.
At least since 1999, the Huskers have never had three pitchers throw consecutive complete games. Due to incomplete records the last time the feat occurred has not been found yet.
Since 1999, the Huskers had thrown 9.0-inning complete games in back-to-back games on two occasions prior to the Ohio State series:
May 16-17, 2009 vs. Baylor
May 16 - Sean Yost (9.0 innings)
May 17 - Erik Bird (9.0 innings)
April 14-15, 2006 vs. Texas A&M
April 14 - Tony Watson (9.0 innings)
April 15 - Johnny Dorn (9.0 innings)
The closest the Huskers had come to throwing three consecutive games before last weekend was against Texas A&M in March of 2002. Shane Komine threw 8.0 of the Huskers’ 9.0 innings on Friday, before Jamie Rodrigue threw a 9.0-inning complete game on Saturday and Aaron Marsden threw an 8.0-inning complete game on Sunday. Sunday’s game was called after 8.0 innings due to the Big 12 mercy rule with the Huskers ahead 10-0.
The Huskers have struck out 247 times this year, an average of 4.8 times per game, the second fewest in the Big Ten. Minnesota has struck out 238 times.
But the Husker have worked a Big Ten best 196 walks, an average of 3.8 per game.
Combined with their 25 HBP, the Huskers only have 26 more strikeouts to free passes; 247-to-221.
Two Husker regulars have more walks than strikeouts this year, including Pat Kelly (20-to-18), Michael Pritchard (24-to-20).
Making an Impact
True freshman Ryan Boldt has started 50 of the Huskers’ 52 games in 2014 and is hitting .301 entering NU’s series against Illinois.
A two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week honoree, Boldt (59) is one of five players on the team with over 50 hits on the year, including nine doubles, four triples and one homer. He has also driven in 26 runs on the year, with 18 RBIs coming with two outs, and is tied for second on the team with 38 runs scored.
Boldt has moved to the leadoff spot for the Huskers over the team’s past 18 games and has reached base in NU’s first at-bat of the game nine times.
Prior to the start of the 2014 season, he was named the No. 2 freshman in the country by Baseball America.
Taking Down No. 1
On Saturday, Feb. 22, at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz., the Nebraska baseball team took down No. 1 Oregon State, 9-2. The win came one week after the Huskers lost to the then No. 2 Beavers 7-4 in Tempe, Ariz.
Nebraska’s last win over a No. 1 ranked team came in the 2005 Big 12 home opener when the No. 4 ranked Huskers beat Texas, 4-3, in 16 innings at Hawks Field.