Peoria, Ariz. - The Nebraska baseball team dropped its opening game of the 2012 season on Friday night to the Gonzaga Bulldogs by a score of 7-4. Playing the first game of a three-game series at the Peoria Sports Complex, the Huskers took a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning following a two-run sixth inning that was led off by a home run from junior Kash Kalkowski. NU was unable to hold on though, as a three-run eighth inning from the Zags doomed Huskers.
Chad Christensen led NU with a 3-for-3 performance, including a fourth-inning home run with one out that tied the game a 2-2. The junior from Cedar Falls, Iowa, also led the team with two runs. Kalkowski added a first inning single to give him two hits on the night, while Cory Burleson and junior college transfer Rich Sanguinetti also produced RBI's for the Huskers.
The Huskers were able to tag preseason All-American Marco Gonzales for four runs, including three earned, on six hits over five innings, but were unable to scratch anything across against the relief duo of Derek Peterson and Zach Abbruzza.
NU sophomore lefty Zach Hirsch went 4.2 innings in the first start of his career, as he gave up two earned runs on five hits and struck out two. Travis Huber, Dylan Vogt and Luke Bublitz combined to pitch the final 4.1 innings for the Huskers, with Vogt taking the loss. The staff combined for three strikeouts and walked just four Bulldogs on the night.
Gonzaga struck first in the game, as they scored one run on three straight one-out singles in the second inning. The Zags added another run in the third on a two-out RBI double from Maxx Garrett to give Gonzaga a 2-0 lead.
Nebraska was able to get on the board in the bottom of third after Burleson led off with a walk. After the next two Huskers got out, including a sac bunt from Pat Kelly, Kale Kiser was hit-by-pitch to give NU runners at first and second with two out and extended Kiser's reached-base streak to 27 games. Sanguinetti then came through with his first RBI as a Husker to drive in Burleson. The inning looked like it would continue when Kalkowski roped a ball down the first base line, but Andy Hunter made a diving stop and tossed to Gonzales to get Kalkowski out by half a step to end the inning.
After Christensen tied the game in the fourth with his home run that carried well behind the 385-foot sign in left-centerfield, Gonzaga would take the lead again with another two-out RBI in the sixth.
Following Kalkowski's leadoff homer in the sixth that chased Gonzales from the game, Josh Scheffert singled and Christensen reach on a bunt single to give NU first-and-second with no outs. Kurt Farmer then tried to sacrifice the runners ahead, but bunted the ball too hard to Peterson and he was able to throw out Scheffert at third. Burleson followed with a single through the left side and it looked to load the bases, but Moon misplayed the ball in the outfield, allowing Christensen to score. Kelly followed with a single to load the bases with one out, but NU was unable to cash in any more runs.
After Gonzaga tied the game a 4-4 in the seventh, the Zags piled on three more in the eighth to close out of the game. Alex Stanford led off the inning with an infield single that deflected off pitcher Dylan Vogt's glove, before Vogt retired the next two Gonzaga batters. Eric Lane followed with a two-out RBI to score Stanford and then Clayton Eslick earned the second infield single on a hard shot to first base to give the Zags runners at first and second with two outs. Following a walk to Moon to load the bases, the Huskers looked to get out of the inning with minimal damage, but a throwing error from Kelly scored two more Gonzaga runs. Nebraska started off the bottom of the eighth with back-to-back walks, but the rally quickly died following a strike out and a double play.
The Huskers will be back at the Peoria Sports Complex for game two tomorrow night at 8 p.m. (CT). NU is expected to send sophomore right-hander Jon Keller to the mound, while Gonzaga will counter with senior lefty Tyler Olson.