Stillwater, Okla. – Trailing by one run and two outs away from the end of the 2014 season, Nebraska’s offense rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning on its way to a 8-6 win over the Binghamton Bearcats in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. The No. 19 Huskers are now 41-20 on the year, and will continue NCAA Tournament play tomorrow at 12:05 p.m. against the loser of tonight’s game between Cal State Fullerton and Oklahoma State.
The Huskers have now won 16 games this season when they have been behind or tied after the sixth inning, as the Bearcats took a 6-5 lead after plating three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The win also marked the 11th time this year the Huskers have won after taking the lead in their final at-bat of the game.
Nebraska’s first five hitters combined to go 12-for-23 with seven RBIs and six runs scored, including three-hit performances from both Ryan Boldt and Blake Headley. Nebraska walked just one time on the day, but also didn’t strikeout in 38 at-bats.
After the Bearcats took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth, the Huskers produced just one base runner over the next 2.1 innings. Following Austin Darby’s fly out to start the top of the ninth, freshman Ben Miller worked NU’s first walk of the game and was replaced on the base paths by Ty Kildow. Jake Placzek came through with a bloop single and on the play Kildow took two bases to put the tying run 90 feet from home with one out for the top of NU’s lineup coming to the plate. Binghamton turned the ball over to hard-throwing reliever Mike Bunal, but Boldt continued to swing a hot stick and picked up his fifth hit of the tournament, a game-tying RBI single. Nebraska then dialed up a safety squeeze that Steven Reveles executed perfectly, allowing Placzek to score the go-ahead run. The Huskers weren’t done though, as Michael Pritchard delivered a RBI single to center field that scored Boldt to put the Huskers ahead 8-6. Pat Kelly followed with his second hit of the game and Blake Headley reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, but Bunal was able to put an end to the damage with a 6-3 groundout off the bat of Tanner Lubach.
Zach Hirsch climbed the mound for the Huskers in the ninth to face the top of Binghamton’s lineup after retiring the Bearcats in order in both the seventh and eighth innings. Hirsch retired the first two Bearcat batters he faced before Daniel Nevares gave Binghamton hope with a two-out single. Shaun McGraw stepped to the plate as the game-tying run and got ahead in the count 3-0 before Hirsch fired a strike and then got McGraw to bounce into an game-ending 5-3 putout.
Hirsch earned the win and improved to 5-2 on the year after tossing a season-high 3.1 innings. It was his longest outing since March 23 of last season when he also threw 3.1 innings of relief at Illinois.
The Huskers had to rally after jumping out to a 4-0 lead through two innings. Nebraska’s offense scored three runs on four hits in the top of the first and the Huskers tagged on a run in the top of the second to push their lead to 4-0.
After not getting a runner past first base through the first three innings, the Bearcats broke through in the fourth with three runs on four hits. Binghamton’s first three batters each produced a hit, including a double by Nevares. NU starter Austin Christensen’s day came to an end after he gave up a sacrifice fly to Reed Gamache that cut NU’s lead to 4-2. Bob Greco came on and walked the first batter he faced, but got some help from his defense for the second out of the inning. John Howell tried to lay down a squeeze bunt, but Headley got to the ball quickly from first base and was able to toss the ball to Lubach at home to cut down McGraw. In a position to get out of the inning still up two runs, Greco instead gave up a double to Darian Herncane that escaped a diving catch from Boldt in right-center field. With the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, Greco got a fly ball to end the Bearcats’ three-run frame.
The Huskers got one run back in the top of the fifth, starting with Boldt’s second triple of the weekend. The freshman centerfielder scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Pritchard that put the Huskers ahead by two, 5-3.
Binghamton put together its second three-run inning of the game in the bottom of the six to take a 6-5 lead, with all three runs unearned. Freshman reliever Jake Hohensee walked Gamache and then gave up a single to Brendan Skidmore. Howell then laid down a bunt and Hohensee had Gamache at third base, but instead threw the ball into foul territory that cut NU’s lead to one. No. 9 hitter Eddie Posavec tied the game with a ground out and then Hohensee’s day came to an end after leadoff hitter Zach Blanden walked to put runners on the corners. Hirsch took the mound and gave up a RBI single to Bill Bereszniewicz, his third of the day, putting the Bearcats ahead, 6-5.
After Binghamton starter Greg Ostner had retired eight straight Huskers, Headley broke the streak with a two-out double in the eighth. With the tying run in scoring position, Ostner kept the Bearcats on top by inducing an inning-ending fly ball off the bat of Lubach. Ostner got the first out of the ninth before giving up a walk and a hit. On the day he went 8.1 innings and allowed seven runs on 11 hits and one walk.
Nebraska’s 41 wins are the most by a Husker team since 2008 when NU also won 41 games. Nebraska last won more than 41 games in 2006, when the Huskers posted a 42-17 record.