Lincoln - The Nebraska
baseball team (17-9, 2-1 Big Ten) put together one of its best games of the
season on Sunday afternoon at Hawks Field in front of 5,266 fans, as starter
Zach Hirsch improved to 3-1 on the year with a career-high tying 7.0 innings on
the mound, while Chad Christensen drove in a game-high and career-high tying
four RBI's to power the Huskers to a 13-3 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini
and a 2-1 series win in NU's first ever Big Ten series. After dropping Friday's
series opener 11-3 to the defending league and tournament champions, the
Huskers outscored Illinois by a combined score of 31-8 in the final two games
of the series to open conference play with a series win for the first time
since 2008 when they swept Kansas State in Manhattan. Husker fans topped the
5,000 mark in all three games of the series, with a combined 15,697 fans coming
out to see the Huskers open conference play.
with Christensen's four RBI's, Kash Kalkowski and Richard Stock each plated
three runs on the day and Kale Kiser hit his fourth home run of the season. NU
out-hit the Illini 14-5 and improved to 12-0 on the year when outhitting its
opponent, while the Illini's five hits were a season low.
the mound, Hirsch held the Illini in check and gave up just one run on three
hits and two walks. A native of St. Charles, Ill., Hirsch faced no more than
five batters in any inning and faced just three hitters in four different
innings, while also notching two pickoffs on the afternoon. Tyler King and
Travis Huber combined to pitch the final two innings of the game, with each
giving up one run on one hit.
started the game by scoring in the top of the first for the third straight
game, but unlike Friday and Saturday, when the Huskers went down in order in
the bottom of the first, NU evened the score with a run of their own. Michael
Pritchard drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on a double by Rich
Sanguinetti. Christensen then took a pitch on the outer half of the plate the
other way and grounded out, but it was enough to score Pritchard from third to
tie the game.
got the Huskers going again in the bottom of the third with another leadoff
walk. Sanguinetti then laid down a sacrifice bunt and Illini starter Josh Ferry
tried to get Pritchard at second, but failed, giving NU runners at first and
second with no out. Christensen loaded the bases with his seventh and the team's
20th bunt single of the season, which set the table for Stock and Kalkowski to
drive in three runs with back-to-back singles. After Pat Kelly flew out and
Kalkowski was thrown out trying to steal second, Cory Burleson drove in Stock
for the Huskers' fourth run of the inning.
put the Huskers up 6-1 in the fourth with a leadoff home run, his fourth of the
season. The senior from Plano, Texas, has nearly matched his combined home run
total from his first three seasons at Nebraska, as he hit two each as a
freshman, sophomore and junior.
solidified its lead in the bottom of the sixth with four runs on five hits, as
Pritchard, Christensen, Stock, Kelly and Burleson all roped singles. Pritchard's
single came on a bunt to improve the Huskers' season total to 21, after NU
produced just 16 bunt singles in 55 games a year ago.
added his third and fourth RBI's of the game with a one-out double in the
seventh that scored Kiser and Sanguinetti. The Husker shortstop later scored
his third run of the game and sixth of the series on a RBI single from
Husker now turn their attention to Tuesday night, when they wrap up their
17-game home stand with Kansas State at 6:35 p.m. NU opened the home stand with
a 9-6 win over the Wildcats, who are 13-10 on the year after dropping 2-of-3 to
Texas at home over the weekend. Nebraska will hand the ball to sophomore
Brandon Pierce for his first start of the season, while the Wildcats' starter
is yet to announced.