Minneapolis – The Nebraska baseball team (21-14, 5-2 Big Ten) jumped out to a 5-0 lead through two innings on Friday afternoon at Siebert Field, but needed a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to post a 8-6 win in its series opener against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-12, 5-5 Big Ten).
The Huskers did their damage with two outs all afternoon, scoring all eight of their runs with two down. Nebraska’s 13 hits on the day marked the 21st time in 35 games that the Huskers have notched double-digit hits, with 10 of the hits coming with two outs.
Michael Pritchard and Ben Miller each homered in the first inning, NU’s first two-home run game of the year.
With the game tied, 6-6, Minnesota closer Dalton Sawyer got the first two outs of the ninth before giving up a single to Jake Placzek. Pritchard stepped up and picked up his second extra-base hit of the game with a double that landed on the left-field line. With a base open, Sawyer tried to intentionally walk Pat Kelly, but instead sailed a pitch to the backstop, allowing Placzek to score from third on the wild pitch. After eventually walking Kelly, Austin Darby delivered an RBI infield single that scored Pritchard and put the Huskers up two, 8-6.
Josh Roeder took the mound in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to Connor Schaefbauer, but then got Tony Skjefte to fly out and struck out Dan Olinger looking. Michael Handel kept the Gophers alive with a single, bring the potential game-winning run to the plate in Jordan Smith. Roeder dug in and struck out Smith to earn his sixth save of the season.
Nebraska’s offense jumped on Minnesota starter Alec Crawford in the first, scoring four runs all with two outs. After Crawford started the game by retiring Ryan Boldt and Placzek on five pitches, Pritchard took a 1-1 offering from Crawford over the 390 sign in dead centerfield for his second homer of the season. Kelly followed with a double and quickly scored on a single by Darby. Miller stepped in and got his 19th birthday off to a great start with a two-out, no-doubt homer off the video board behind the right field wall, pushing Nebraska’s lead to 4-0.
Entering the game, the Huskers had scored 12 total runs in their first 34 games of the year.
The Huskers produced another two-out run in the bottom of the second, with Placzek coming through with a RBI single that scored Blake Headley, who started the inning with a base hit. Placzek’s two-out hit extended Nebraska’s lead to 5-0 and marked NU’s 84th 2-out RBI of the season.
With a 5-0 lead, Nebraska starter Chance Sinclair into a rhythm on the mound and retired nine straight after giving up a leadoff single in the second. Smith snapped the streak in the fifth with a leadoff single.
Smith’s single got the Gopher bats going and they went on to score four runs in the fifth on four hits and two walks. Minnesota closed the Husker lead to one, 5-4, after notching just one hit through the first four innings of the game.
Nebraska’s offense got a run back in the sixth, again with two outs. Miller singled and moved into scoring position when Headley delivered a two-out single. Steven Reveles made his first hit of the game count, as the Huskers’ seventh two-hit hit of the game scored Miller from second base.
Michael Handel setup the Gophers in the bottom of the sixth with a base hit, ending Sinclair’s day. Zach Hirsch took the mound and posted his 30th strikeout of the season, but then gave up a single and a ground-rule double that scored Handel. With the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second, Hirsch got a pop up and induced a fly ball off the bat of Bobby Juan to keep the Huskers in front, 6-5.
A leadoff walk by Hirsh to Connor Schaefbauer came back to haunt Hirsch in the seventh, as he came around to score on a two-out double by Handel, tying the game 6-6. The Gophers had the go-ahead run at third following a single by Smith, but Hirsch to Troy Traxler to pop up to keep the game tied through seven.
For the first time since the fourth, the Gophers’ leadoff hitter was retired in the eighth. Hirsch rolled through the next two batters for a 1-2-3 inning to keep the game knotted 6-6 and to setup the Huskers rally in the ninth.
The Huskers and Gophers play game two of their three-game series tomorrow at 2:05 p.m. Christian DeLeon is scheduled to face UM’s Jordan Jess. The game will be video streamed live on Gopher All-Access (subscription required), while Lane Grindle and Ben McLaughlin will have the call on the Husker Sports Network.