Surprise, Ariz. – For the first time since 2005 the Nebraska baseball team (3-2) knocked off the top team in the country, as the Huskers blasted the No. 1 ranked Oregon State Beavers on Friday afternoon 9-2 at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers. 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.
NU starter Christian DeLeon set the tone on Friday afternoon, as the senior gave the Huskers 7.0 strong innings after struggling in last weekend’s season opener against Pacific, where he went 4.1 innings in a no decision. The right hander gave up just one unearned run on four hits and one walk, while striking out five Beavers. DeLeon, a native of Richmond, Texas, retired the first six batters he faced and produced a perfect 1-2-3 inning five times on the afternoon.
Nebraska’s offense produced 10 hits on the afternoon, while scoring five runs on six hits off OSU starter Andrew Moore, who was a first-team All-American by Baseball America and the American Baseball Coaches Association a year ago. Steven Reveles, Blake Headley and Austin Christensen all notched a pair of hits, including a pair of double from Reveles. Along with Reveles’ two doubles, Pat Kelly added his second double of the year and Austin Darby stroke his second triple of the season.
The Huskers came through with two-out hits all afternoon, producing seven two-out hits that drove in eight of Nebraska’s nine runs.
Oregon State took the first lead of the game in the third on an unearned run. After DeLeon retired the first six Beavers he faced, Michael Howard started the bottom of the third with a base hit and then moved to third later in the inning on a perfectly executed one-out hit-and-run by No. 9 hitter Trever Morrison. Before the top of the Beavers’ lineup got a shot to drive in Howard from third, a passed ball by NU catch Tanner Lubach allowed the game’s first run to score. DeLeon limited the damage though, as he got Jeff Hendrix to flyout and after walking Andy Peterson, the Husker senior struck out preseason All-American Michael Conforto swinging with a full court.
Nebraska’s offense broke through in the sixth behind clutch, two-out hitting, and an OSU error. With one down Darby reached on a throwing error by Morrison and it looked as though he’d be stranded after Reveles flew out to center for the second out of the inning. But Michael Pritchard got the Huskers going with a single and Kelly followed with a walk to load the bases for Headley. The third-team All-Big Ten pick from a year ago quickly got in an 0-2 hole, but battled back and delivered a one-RBI single to tie the game at 1-1. Christensen stepped to the plate and kept the runs coming with a opposite field single to left-center that plated Pritchard and Kelly, before freshman Ryan Boldt notched the Huskers’ fourth two-out single of the inning, scoring Headley to give Nebraska a 4-1 lead.
With the lead, DeLeon came out and faced OSU’s 2-3-4 hitters, sitting them down in order. It marked the fourth time in the game that DeLeon had produced a perfect inning.
The Husker offense added a run in the seventh, again on two-out hitting, to take a 5-1 lead. With two runners on and two out, Kelly nearly put a 1-2 offering from reliever Brandon Jackson into the OSU bullpen behind the left field wall. Reveles, who had doubled earlier in the innings with two down, easily score, but Pritchard was cut down at the plate trying to score from first to end the inning.
DeLeon came out and retired his eighth straight Beaver, before Caleb Hamilton reached on a single. DeLeon went right back to work and got a 6-4-3 double play to preserve NU’s 5-1 lead through seven innings.
Nebraska’s offense continued to feast on Oregon State’s bullpen in the eighth, as it scored four runs on three hits. Christensen got the inning going with a one-out single and Boldt reached on OSU’s third error of the game. Jake Placzek then pinch hit and loaded the bases on a four-pitch walk. Lubach followed with a sacrifice fly and Darby blew the game open with a two-out, two-RBI, triple that put Nebraska in front, 8-1. The Huskers weren’t done though, as Reveles roped a double for the second straight inning, pushing NU’s lead to 9-1.
The Beavers didn’t go away though, as they loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Jeff Chesnut with one out. With no-where to put Conforto, Chesnut issued a free pass that cut NU’s led to seven, 9-2. Head Coach Darin Erstad turned the ball over to senior Bob Greco, who quickly righted the ship with a fly out and a strikeout that limited OSU’s rally to one run.
Freshman Jake Hohensee took the mound in the ninth and after giving up a leadoff hit, the Lincoln East product got three-straight outs to secure the Husker win.
The Huskers continue the Aramark 2014 Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge tomorrow evening when they face the Washington Huskies at Surprise Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. (CT), but that time may change depending on how long the previous two games at the park last. Greg Sharpe and Lane Grindle will have the call on the Husker Sports Network, including Huskers.com and the Official Husker App.