Minneapolis – After missing last week’s start against Michigan, senior Christian DeLeon came through when the Huskers needed him most, as the righty dealt 8.0 innings of shutout ball in a 5-0 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday afternoon at the Big Ten Tournament.
With the win, the Nebraska baseball team now faces the No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers in the championship game tonight at 7:05 p.m. With the a tonight, the Huskers would force a second game against the Hoosiers tomorrow, with the winner taking the Big Ten title.
DeLeon beat Buckeye starter Jaron Long for the second time this season, after also out-dueling Long in Lincoln during the series opener between the two teams in Lincoln.
A native of Richmond, Texas, DeLeon gave up five hits and two walks over his 8.0 innings, while striking out three. It was the 12th time this year in 14 starts that DeLeon has gone at least 6.0 innings and his fourth start where he has gone at least 8.0 innings for the Huskers.
After walking the leadoff batter in the bottom of the ninth, Head Coach Darin Erstad lifted DeLeon, who got a standing ovation from a strong contingent of Husker fans in attendance at Target Field, and gave the ball to freshman Jeff Chesnut. The Omaha product made quick work of the Buckeyes with a fly ball out and a 6-4-3 double play that secured the shutout.
Nebraska’s 1-2 hitters, Rich Sanguinetti and Pat Kelly, each had a pair of hits, while Chad Christensen and Blake Headley each had two RBIs.
DeLeon got off to a rocky start in the first, issuing a five-pitch walk to leadoff hitter Joe Ciamacco. It was just the 14th walk of the year in 84.2 innings of work for DeLeon. The NU starter then tried to pick off Ciamacco, but instead threw the ball into foul territory, allowing the OSU speedster to coast into third base. With no outs, DeLeon buckled down, getting two straight pop ups and a ground ball, all to Bryan Peters at shortstop, stranding Ciamacco 90 feet from home.
After DeLeon had retired six-straight Buckeyes, Jacob Bosiokovic led off the OSU third with a double. No. 9 hitter Tim Wetzel then laid down a bunt and beat it out, but on the play Bosiokovic stayed at second. Ciamacco followed with a sacrifice bunt, putting a pair of runners in scoring position for the Buckeyes. But once again, DeLeon dug in, getting a pop up from Ryan Cypret and a fly out from No. 3 hitter Kirby Pellant to keep the game knotted at 0-0.
With no hits and just one base runner through the first three innings, the Huskers got after Long in the fourth, starting with a leadoff double by Sanguinetti. After Kelly flew out for the first out of the inning, Michael Pritchard lined a RBI single up the middle, putting the Huskers in front 1-0. Christensen then squared up a pitch, but lined it right at right-fielder Mike Carroll for out No. 2. Kalkowski followed with a two-out single, putting runners and first and second for Headley with two down. The sophomore got behind 0-2 in the count, but battled back and eventually got a pitched he liked, driving it into the right-field gap for a 2-RBI double that put Nebraska ahead, 3-0.
Pritchard’s one-out single in the fourth extended his on-base streak to 40 games. The longest streak by a Husker since 2006, when Luke Gorsett reached in 48 straight-games.
With a 3-0 lead, DeLeon gave up a one-out single in the fourth, but nothing else, and then sat down the Buckeyes in order in the fifth.
Cypret tried to get the Buckeyes’ offense started in the sixth with a leadoff double down into the left-field corner. But for the third time in the first six innings, DeLeon stranded a leadoff base runner, including the second time he stranded a leadoff double. With OSU’s 3-4-5 hitters due up, DeLeon got a pair of fly outs to Darby in center and a diving stop by Kelly at second base to keep the Husker lead at 3-0.
After DeLeon threw up another zero in the bottom of the seventh, Nebraska’s bats gave him some breathing room with a pair of runs in the top of the eighth.
With reliever Brett McKinney on the mound, Sanguinetti laid down a base hit bunt on the first pitch he saw and Kelly followed with a single. Pritchard sacrificed both his teammates into scoring position and the moved paid off, as Christensen lined a 0-2 pitch up the middle that scored both Sanguinetti and Kelly, extending NU’s lead to 5-0.
DeLeon kept dealing in the eight, sending the Buckeyes down in order, including a leadoff strikeout by Ciamacco.