Lincoln – Over 3,100 fans at Hawks Field nearly saw a ninth-inning comeback win by the Nebraska baseball team (14-12, 1-2 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon, but the UNLV Rebels (19-7, 9-3 MWC) were able to strand the tying run and hold on to a 5-4 victory.
The Huskers entered the bottom of the ninth down by two and got off to a good start when Ryan Boldt led off with a single up the middle. Austin Christensen then grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Tanner Lubach kept the Husker hopes alive with a base hit that put runners on the corners for NU with one down. Reveles stepped in and grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Christensen scored on the play to put the Huskers within one run and brought the winning run to the plate in pinch hitter Bryce Only. The true freshman was unable to keep the rally going and struck out on a 2-2 pitch from closer Brayden Torres, who picked up his second save of the series.
NU starter Chance Sinclair took his first loss of the season, falling to 4-1 on the year. The junior didn’t issue a walk in 7.0 innings on the mound and tied a career high with five strikeouts, but gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits. UNLV’s John Richy worked into the ninth and improved to 4-1 on the year, giving up four runs on nine hits and no walks, while striking out a career high 10 Huskers. Both pitching staff pounded the zone on the afternoon, neither offense drew a walk.
Pat Kelly led the Huskers at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a pair of two-out RBI singles. NU’s 1-through-5 hitters were a combined 6-for-20, while the same part of UNLV’s lineup was a combined 10-for-21.
Nebraska took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Kelly drove in Jake Placzek, who earlier singled and stole second base. UNLV didn’t responded until the top of the third when the Rebels scored a pair of runs on three hits. Jonathan Torres started the inning by reaching on an error by Reveles and quickly moved to third on a double by Matt McCallister, UNLV’s first hit of the game. The top of UNLV’s lineup came to the plate and drove in a pair of runs on a single by Joey Swanner that was followed by a sacrifice fly from Justin Jones.
The Huskers took the lead right back in the bottom of the frame with a pair of runs on three singles. Ty Kildow opened with a single and was soon at third base when he took two bags on a failed pickoff attempt by UNLV catcher Erik VanMeetren that ended up in foul territory down the right-field line. Darby stepped up and tied the game with a RBI single and was in scoring position himself when he stole his fourth base of the season. With no outs, Richy dialed up a pair of strikeouts, but Kelly came through with a clutch two-out single that put the Huskers back in front 3-2.
The Rebels knotted the game in the fifth when a leadoff HBP by Sinclair came around to score on a one-out sac fly by T.J. White. UNLV continued to grind at-bats and took the lead for good in the top of the seventh on three straight two-out singles.
Sinclair got his fifth strikeout to start the seventh, but then gave up a base hit to Swanner. Sinclair came right back and got Jones to fly out, but was unable to close out the inning and three straight hits from UNLV’s 3-4-5 hitters plated a pair of runs. Reliever Zach Hirsch started the eighth and gave up just one hit, while striking out three in 2.0 innings of scoreless relief to keep the Huskers in striking distance, but NU’s offense was only able to scratched across one run over the final six innings of the game.
The Huskers will try to avoid a sweep tomorrow when the squads wrap up their series with the Rebels at 1:05 p.m. The game will be carried live on the Big Ten Network, while Greg Sharpe and Lane Grindle will have the call across the Husker Sports Network.