Timely Hitting Carries Huskers to 6-4 Win
Fayetteville, Ark. - The Nebraska baseball team (16-13, 1-2 Big Ten) found hits when the offense needed them most, giving the Huskers a 6-4 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday afternoon at Baum Stadium to split a two-game series.
The offense was led by a trio of Huskers, as Austin Darby, Ryan Boldt and Ben Miller all turned in two-hit performances. Junior Kyle Kubat picked up the win for the Huskers, going 5.2 innings, while giving up four earned runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking three. Josh Roeder picked up his fifth save of the season, pitching the ninth inning with one hit given up and a strikeout.
Both teams collected 10 hits on the day, but Nebraska was able to deliver when it mattered. The Huskers went 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including 3-for-3 with runners on third and less than two outs, while Arkansas could only muster one hit in eight attempts with runners in scoring position. NU also played small-ball to build their early lead, tying a season high with four sacrifice bunts to put runners in position to score.
Kubat found himself in a bases-loaded jam early in the bottom of the first, but was able to escape the inning with minimal damage. After giving up two singles and a hit-by-pitch to start the inning, Kubat got Arkansas' Tyler Spoon to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, but the Razorbacks put the game’s first run on the board on the play.
The Huskers came right back in the top of the second with a pair of runs to make it a 2-1 ball game. Junior Pat Kelly got the inning started by reaching base on a hit-by-pitch. Blake Headley followed a single to left field before Austin Christensen moved both runners into scoring position with a sac bunt. Getting the start at designated hitter, freshman Ben Miller came through with a timely RBI base hit to left center that allowed Kelly to tie the game. Reveles then gave NU the advantage with an RBI sac bunt that plated Headley. After a walk to Taylor Fish, the Huskers came close to putting a third run on the board when Darby lined a single to left, but Miller was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.
Kubat retired the Razorbacks in order in the bottom of the second and the Husker bats kept the momentum going and extend the lead. With back-to-back hits from Boldt and Michael Pritchard to start the NU half of the third, Kelly advanced both runners with a sac bunt and Headley pushed the Huskers' lead to 3-1 with a 4-3 RBI groundout that deflected off of the pitcher's glove. Christensen was inches from making the score 4-1, but a stellar play by Arkansas shortstop Michael Bernal to corral Christensen's line drive put an end to the inning.
The Hogs came back with an almost identical start to their half of the third, starting the inning off with two singles, a sac bunt, and an RBI groundout to make the score 3-2. Arkansas found the tying run when Spoon hit a seeing-eye single through the left side to score Andrew Benintendi from third. Spoon stole second to put a runner in scoring position with two down, but Kubat got Krisjon Wilkerson swinging to record his second strikeout of the game.
The Huskers regained the lead in the top of the fourth with a pair of two-out runs to make it 5-3. After Miller led the inning off with a base on balls, Reveles moved him to second with his second sac bunt of the day. Fish struck out looking for the second out, but Darby came through with his second hit of the day to keep the inning alive. A balk by Arkansas' Jackson Lowery plated Miller and moved Darby to second to make the score 4-3. Boldt knocked in the second run of the inning with a shot up the middle that scored Darby to give NU the 5-3 advantage.
Following a quiet fifth inning for both teams, Arkansas' offense loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. With a 2-0 count on pinch hitter Brett McAfee, the Huskers brought in Bob Greco to relieve Kubat. Greco walked McAfee to make it a one-run game at 5-4 but he came back and got Benintendi to ground out 6-3 to end the threat.
The Huskers used a two-out rally in the top half of the seventh to build the lead back to two. Miller lined a single up the middle with two down to keep the inning alive for NU before Ty Kildow replaced him as a pinch runner. Kildow advanced to second on a passed ball and Reveles walked to put runners on first and second. Fish squeezed a single through the right side of the infield that scored Kildow from second to make it 6-4 in favor of the Huskers. Darby followed with a free pass to load the bases, but Boldt flew out to deep left center to end the inning.
Greco kept the Razorback bats quiet in 2.1 innings of work, giving up just one hit with one strikeout before Roeder took the mound in the ninth.
Roeder retired the first two batters before giving up a single to Joe Serrano, but closed the door on the Razorbacks' attempt at a comeback by getting Brian Anderson to fly out to left.
The Huskers return to Big Ten play this weekend when they host the Ohio State Buckeyes for a three-game series at Hawks Field, with NU’s conference home opener set for 6:35 p.m. on Friday night.