NU and PSU Meet for First Ever Big Ten Series
Up Next for the Huskers
After playing its last four games on the road, the Nebraska baseball team (29-17, 10-5 Big Ten) returns to Hawks Field on Friday for a three-game series against the Penn State Nittany Lions (17-23, 5-9 Big Ten).
The Huskers will be looking to continue the momentum they created in April, as they posted a 15-5 record during the month. While the Nittany Lions enter the weekend on nine-game losing, with six of the losses coming on the road.
The series opens at 6:35 p.m. on Friday, continues on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. and concludes on Sunday at 11:05 a.m.
On Friday, the Huskers and Nittany Lions will meet for the first time ever during the regular-season. The Huskers and Nittany Lions met at the 2012 Big Ten Tournament, with the Huskers knocking Nittany Lions out of the postseason tournament.
Sitting at 10-5 on the year in Big Ten play, the Huskers have nine Big Ten Conference games left on their 2014 regular-season schedule, including a pair of home series. Nebraska also has one non-conference game remaining against Creighton on May 13 at TD Ameritrade Park.
After its series with the Nittany Lions, Nebraska heads to East Lansing, Mich., for a three-game set against the Michigan State Spartans, before ending the regular season with a three-game series at home against the Illinois Fighting Illini. The Huskers and Fighting Illini opened conference play against each other each of the past two seasons.
Huskers’ Weekend Rotation
Chance Sinclair is scheduled to make his 12th start of the season in the series opener and is second Friday-night start of the year.
Now 6-1 on the year with a 1.66 ERA, Sinclair is coming off his seventh start of at least 7.0 innings in a win at Michigan last weekend.
Sinclair is the only pitcher in the Big Ten with an ERA under 2.00, as Michigan State’s Cam Vieaux ranks second in the league with a 2.06 ERA.
Junior lefty Aaron Bummer is looking to bounce back after consecutive starts of less than 6.0 innings. After going 3.2 innings two weeks ago in a 10-9 win over Northwestern, Bummer lasted 5.1 inning in a loss at Michigan last Sunday.
Prior to his last two starts, Bummer had gone at least 7.0 innings in each of his previous three starts after not working into the seventh in any of his first five starts of the season.
Nebraska has not announced its starter for Sunday’s series finale.
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
Friday’s series opener against Penn State will be carried statewide on NET.
Web Streams this Week
Penn State, Friday - BTDN (video.btn.com)
Penn State, Saturday - BTDN (video.btn.com)
Penn State, Sunday - BTDN (video.btn.com)
Nebraska-Penn State History
The Huskers and Nittany Lions have only met once, with the meeting coming in an elimination game at the 2012 Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
After dropping a 10-9 heartbreaker to Michigan State in the first round of the tournament, the Huskers picked up their first ever win in the conference postseason tournament with a 12-3 victory over the Nittany Lions.
Ryan Hander went 6.1 innings and struck out a career-high seven, while Pat Kelly was 4-for-5 at the plate with five RBIs.
NU & PSU History -- Huskers are 1-0
2012 vs. PSU W, 12-3
Over the Past 10 Games for Nebraska
• Nebraska was 7-3, including a 3-2 home record and a 4-3 Big Ten record
• Michael Pritchard hit .475 (19-for-40) with seven doubles and 10 RBIs
• Nebraska averaged over two doubles a game with 23
• Blake Headley hit .421 (16-for-38) with three doubles and an on-base percentage of .477
• Six Huskers had double-digit hits, including Michael Pritchard (19), Blake Headley (16), Ryan Boldt (13), Steven Reveles (11), Austin Darby (11) and Pat Kelly (11)
• Nebraska pitchers totaled 65 strikeouts, while walking 30
• Nebraska posted a .310 batting average, while holding opponents to a .275 average
• Closer Josh Roeder earned four of his 10 saves on the year
• Nebraska’s pitching staff posted a 2.90 ERA, while opposing pitchers were at a 5.74 ERA
• Nebraska outscored opponents 65-40
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
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 14 games entering Friday, Pritchard has raised his average 59 points to .320.
He is hitting .466 during the stretch (25-for-56) with seven multi-hit games, including a career-high 5-for-5 night against Kansas State on April 15.
During the 14-game stretch Pritchard has nine doubles and has notched 14 of his 35 RBIs on the season.
In 2014, Pritchard has nine multi-RBI games, one 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 Friday, Kelly has started 119 straight games dating back to his freshman season.
Kelly has started all 46 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.
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 18 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.
Join the Club
Senior Michael Pritchard joined Nebraska’s 200-hit club on Friday, March 21, with a first inning single at Iowa.
Pritchard became the 21st player in school history to join the club and has since continued to move of the list. He enters Friday ranked 14th in school history with 232 hits and is two hits shy of tying Todd Sears (1995-97) for 13th in school history.
Junior Pat Kelly has a good shot at joining the list before the end of the season as well, as he enters Friday with 191 career hits. Last season Kelly totaled a team-high 85 hits on the year, and with 55 hits this season Kelly is on pace to join the list by the end of 2014.
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.
Prior to Christensen, 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. Jeff Leise sits second on the career charts with 305 career 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. 238 DJ Belfonte 2007-10
13. 234 Todd Sears 1995-97
14. 232 Michael Pritchard 2011-present
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
Big Ten Bats
Nebraska’s has one of the best offenses in not only the Big Ten Conference, but also nationally.
Nebraska ranks 14th in the nation in hits (476), 15th in triples (17), 24th in batting average (.299) and 30th in runs scored (278).
Through Wednesday, the Huskers rank first in the Big Ten in six major categories, including:
Hits (476) - Iowa (428)
Runs (278) - Iowa 2nd (266)
RBIs (252) - Iowa 2nd (239)
Triples (17) - Ohio State/Indiana 2nd (14)
Walks (173) - Illinois 2nd (170)
Sac Bunts (44) - Northwestern 2nd (44)
Like Your Chances with Sinclair
Junior Chance Sinclair has been a key addition to the Husker pitching staff in 2014 with his 6-1 record and an 1.66 ERA, which ranks 41st nationally and leads the Big Ten Conference.
A transfer from Neosho County CC, Sinclair has gone 6.0 or more innings in nine of his 11 starts, including six 7.0-inning outings 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 seven straight save opportunities and enters the weekend ranked 16th in the country with 10 saves on the year.
In seven save chances since the Iowa game, Roeder hasn’t allowed a run over 7.1 innings of work and has struck out 13 batters, while walking none.
On the year, Roeder is 2-1 with a 3.07 ERA over 14.2 innings of work. He has struck out 19 and walked four.
Nebraska is 23-1 this year when leading after the eighth inning.
The Huskers have produced double-digit hits 26 times this year in 46 games, including 12 of their 21 home games.
The Huskers are 21-5 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 22-1 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.
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 22 appearances, all out of the pen, in 2014 and holds a 1.54 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .200 average over 35.0 innings of work. He ranks second on the team with 38 strikeouts, one behind starter Christian DeLeon’s 39 strikeouts.
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 7.2 innings of relief in five appearances
Hirsch has 14 appearances this season where he has thrown at least an inning of relief and hasn’t given up a run. In eight of those appearances he hasn’t given up a hit.
Taylor Fish has come up with some big hits for the Huskers late in games, including a walk-off single against St. John’s earlier this season on March 8.
A spot starter for most of the season, Fish recently moved into the starting role at catcher following an injury to Tanner Lubach.
Fish has 13 hits in 56 at bats this season, with six of his 13 hits coming in the seventh inning or later.
Making an Impact
True freshman Ryan Boldt has started 44 of the Huskers’ 46 games in 2014 and is hitting .290 entering NU’s weekend series against Penn State.
A two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week honoree, Boldt is one of four players on the team with over 50 hits on the year, including nine doubles, four triples and one homer. He has also driven in 22 runs on the year, including a team-best 17 RBIs with two outs, and ranks second on the team with 34 runs scored.
Boldt has moved to the leadoff spot for the Huskers over the team’s past 12 games and has reached base in NU’s first at-bat of the game five times.
Prior to the start of the 2014 season, he was named the No. 2 freshman in the country by Baseball America.
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.
As of Thursday afternoon, Nebraska had an RPI of 41 according to the WarrenNolan.com.
The Huskers have an 12-9 record against top-100 RPI teams, including a 5-4 record against top-50 RPI teams.
Nebraska has six games left against teams currently in the RPI top-100, including three with Michigan State (96) and three with Illinois (79).
RPI Top-100 Wins
Oregon State - 1 (RPI 13)
Washington - 1 (RPI 29)
UNLV - 1 (RPI 28)
UC Irvine - 2 (RPI 45)
Arkansas - 1 (RPI 56)
Wichita State - 1 (RPI 99)
Ohio State - 3 (RPI 81)
Iowa - 1 (RPI 90)
Kansas State - 1 (RPI 94)
Nebraska’s RPI has been hurt though by three losses to teams with an RPI above 200. The Huskers are 4-3 in games against RPI 200+ teams
RPI 200+ Losses
Northwestern - 2 (RPI 224)
Northern Colorado - 1 (RPI 299)
Extending the Season
After missing out on the postseason for three-straight seasons from 2009-2011, the Huskers have qualified for the Big Ten Tournament the past two years.
The last time the Huskers made three-straight trips to the conference tournament was 2006-2007-2008.
Nebraska is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.