Lafayette, La. Nebraska’s pitching staff established a school record with 22 strikeouts, while Tyler Farst took advantage of a costly miscue by Louisiana Lafayette, scoring the winning run in the Huskers’ 4-3 victory Friday night.
Five Huskers pitchers combined to fan 22 UL Lafayette hitters, breaking the school mark of 21 set against Iowa State in 1999. Three Huskers Michael Mariot (8), Casey Hauptman (7) and Erik Anderson (4) all set career bests, while sophomore Eric Rose fanned three over 1.2 innings of work to earn the victory in his first college appearance.
Rose, who came into the game with the bases loaded and one out in the 14th, fanned pinch hitter Tyler Benzel and then Travis Whipple to get the Huskers out of the dicey situation and then worked out of trouble in the 15th, as the Ragin’ Cajuns had the tying run on second with no outs.
“It is a good start,” Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson said. “I hesitate to say early in the season that this was a great win, but tonight was a great win for this team for a number of reasons. We have a number of young guys play major roles for us tonight. Eric Rose coming off a lot of injuries did a great job out there. He has fought through a lot of adversity to get back on the mound and to see him go out there and pitch that well was great to see.”
The Husker bullpen was stout, as four relievers combined for 9.1 innings of two-hit, shutout baseball with 14 strikeouts
While NU’s hurlers were dominant on Friday, the Husker offense was opportunistic, getting clutch hitting in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings before plating an unearned run in the 15th, taking advantage of a costly UL Lafayette error.
With two outs and Tyler Farst on first, Ben Kline’s third hit of the day a single to right moved Farst into scoring position. Jake Mort then hit a grounder to third, which ULL third baseman Matt Hicks threw wildly down the line, allowing Farst to come around from second with the winning run.
The Huskers, who now have 100 come-from-behind wins under Anderson, summoned some early-season heroics in the top of the ninth to tie the score at three off of ULL closer Justin Robichaux, who had allowed just two extra-base hits all of last season. Adam Bailey opened the ninth by ripping a double into the right field corner before pinch-runner Boomer Collins moved to third after a perfect sacrifice by Kline, who matched his career high with three hits. Robichaux retired the next two hitters before DJ Belfonte, who was hitless in his first four at-bats, laced a 2-2 pitch into the corner in left for an RBI triple to score Collins.
“I’m proud of our offense and what they did tonight,” Anderson said. “I put some guys out there who had experience, but I feel we have some freshman so can push our players. We did some good things tonight and we found a way to win, but we made a lot of mistakes, so this is a learning experience for us playing 15 innings and getting a lot of people a chance to play. We were down to our last strike, but showed a lot of mental toughness.”
The Huskers manufactured a run in the top of the second, getting a two-out RBI single from Kline to score Nick Sullivan with the game’s first run. Sullivan reached on an infield single before a sacrifice by Farst and a fly ball to right moved him to third. Kline then sent a smash up the middle which caromed off ULL pitcher Zach Osborne’s leg, allowing Sullivan to score on the play.
The Cajuns got the run back in the bottom of the frame, taking advantage of a Husker miscue to knot the score. Two ULL singles sandwiched around a Nebraska error loaded the bases before Thad Griffen coaxed a walk from Mariot to score Scott Hawkins, who started the uprising with a leadoff single.
Nebraska regained the lead in the top in the top of the fifth on Tyler Farst’s run-scoring single that scored Jeff Tezak, who went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice. Osborne hit a pair of batters while the Ragin’ Cajuns committed an error that helped load the bases with two outs. Farst then came through with the Huskers’ third two-out hit in as many innings, finding a hole between third and short to put NU up 2-1.
Mariot came up with big pitches over the first five innings, as the sophomore pitched out of jams in both the fourth and fifth innings and held ULL to just one unearned run through the first five frames.
The Cajuns came up with the clutch two-out hits in the bottom of the sixth, getting run-scoring singles from Les Smith and Kyle Bostick to take a 3-2 advantage. A one-out single from Travis Whipple and a single from Chad Keefer put runners on the corners for ULL. Mariot struck out Thad Griffen for the second out, but was unable to wiggle out of trouble, as Smith lined a single up the middle to tie the score before Bostick lined a single to right to put the hosts ahead and chase Mariot.
Both starters put in strong efforts, but neither factored into the final decision, as the game went nearly five hours. Osborne went the first six innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits but could not get the win as the Huskers rallied for the tying run in the top of the ninth. Mariot pitched well in his first college start, allowing two earned runs over 5.2 innings, while striking out a career-high eight hitters in the longest effort as a Husker.
The Huskers also threatened in the eighth against the ULL closer, as Tezak singled before Cody Neer’s sacrifice bunt moved pinch-runner Khiry Cooper into scoring position, but Robichaux retired the next two Huskers to get out of trouble.
Both teams had chances to win the game in extra innings before the Huskers pushed across the go-ahead run.
Hauptman retired 15 in a row before issuing a two-out walk to Thad Griffen in the 11th. ULL continued to threaten, getting a two-out single from Smith, but some alertness from Farst kept the Cajuns at bay. Bostick reached on a throwing error, but Farst, who caught the throw wide of the bag, fired a strike to Cody Neer at the plate to get out pinch-runner Greg Fontenot to end the inning. Hauptman allowed one hit over 5.2 innings of relief while fanning a career-high seven hitters.
Nebraska had a golden opportunity in the 13th inning, loading the bases with one out, but could not capitalize. A walk and a hit batter put two on before Boomer Collins’ sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Kline was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Randall Bulliard, retired the next two hitters to escape unscathed. Bulliard, the fifth ULL pitcher, took the loss, allowing the unearned run in the 15th.
Chad Keefer had four of the Ragin’ Cajuns nine hits in a losing effort, going 4-for-7 on the evening.
The Huskers and Ragin’ Cajuns will play a doubleheader Saturday afternoon beginning at 2 p.m. Both games will be on Huskers.com and video streamed on HuskersNside, while the first game is an Internet only broadcast because of the men’s basketball game.