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Nebraska opens Big Ten play at 6:35 p.m. on Friday night
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
          Release: 03/22/2012
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Huskers Open Big Ten Play at Home on Friday Night

Nebraska - Illinois
Fri., March 23 - 6:35 p.m.: Jr. Tom Lemke (RHP, 2-1) vs. Illinois - Kevin Johnson (RHP, 3-1)
Sat., March 24 - 2:05 p.m.: So. Jon Keller (RHP, 3-0) vs. Illinois - John Kravetz (RHP, 3-0)
Sun., March 25 - 1:05 p.m.: So. Zach Hirsch (LHP, 2-1) vs. Illinois - Josh Ferry (RHP, 1-0)

Nebraska - Kansas State
Tues., March 27 - 6:35 p.m.: TBA vs. Kansas State - TBA

This Week: With 13 games of their 17-game homestand in the books, the Huskers are set to open Big Ten Conference play on Friday night when the Illinois Fighting Illini visit Hawks Field. The three-game series kicks off at 6:35 p.m. on Friday night and will be shown nationally on the Big Ten Network. The two teams will continue play on Saturday at 2:05 p.m and Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

The Huskers wrap up their current homestand on Tuesday against the Kansas State Wildcats at 6:35 p.m.

Tickets: Season and single-game tickets can be purchased at Huskers.com, by calling 1-800-8BIGRED or by visiting the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office across the street from Memorial Stadium. The Huskers are also offering a nine-game ticket deal this season. Named the "Diamond-Deal" fans can pick any nine of the Huskers' 31 home games and have the same seat for all nine games.

Television: Friday's game will be shown live across the nation on the Big Ten Network and can be streamed online at BTN2Go.com or through select Apple devices via the BTN2Go app. The final two games of the Illinois series and Tuesday's game with Kansas State will be carried on HuskersNSide (subscription needed).

On the Radio: Fans across Nebraska and around the world can listen Greg Sharpe, Lane Grindle and Jeff Culhane call all of the action on the Husker Sports Network - including KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln - and on the Internet at Huskers.com or the Official Husker App. A complete list of HSN affiliates can be found on page 7.

Fireworks: Fans will be treated to fireworks following Friday night's game to celebrate the Huskers' first Big Ten Conference game. Due to the fireworks, the lot behind right field will be closed and the pedestrian bridge behind center field will be closed while the fireworks are going on.

Scouting Illinois
Head Coach Dan Hartleb's Fighting Illini come to Lincoln with a 10-7 overall record and a 4-2 road record. The Illini have won nine of their last 12 games and are yet to play at home this season, as they started the year with a 22-game road trip. Under Hartleb, the Illini are 5-1 in conference openers and 13-8 in Big Ten series openers.

The Huskers and Illini have played two common opponents this year in Gonzaga and West Virginia. The Huskers were swept, 3-0, by the Zags to open the year and the Zags swept the Illini, 2-0, as well. While the Huskers lost to West Virginia, 4-1, at the Dairy Queen Classic in Minneapolis, Minn., Illinois beat the Mountaineers 14-3.

Offensively, the Illini have seven players who have started all 17 of their games, including Jordan Parr, who leads the group with a .369 batting average (24-for-65). Parr also has two of the team's eight home runs, while Brandon Hohl leads the squad with four bombs.

The Illini are aggressive on the bases with 42 steal attempts through 17 games, but hasn't seen much success with just 23 steals. Willie Argo and Davis Hendrickson are the only Illini players with more than three steals with five and four, respectively.

Even though they haven't shown much power, the Illini are hitting .294 as a team and have a team on-base percentage of .368. No player on the team is hitting over .400, but seven players are hitting .290 or better.

Freshman John Kravetz, who is set to start on Saturday, leads the Illini on the mound with a 1.99 ERA and a 3-0 record in four starts. In a team-high 31.2 innings, Kravetz has give up 10 runs (seven earned) on 24 hits, while striking out 20 and walking just seven. The righty is yet to give up an home run on the season and it holding opposing batters to a .209 average.

Friday night's starter Kevin Johnson comes to Lincoln with a 2.70 ERA and a 3-1 record, including one complete game. After losing to Gonzaga, Johnson has wins over St. John's, then No. 18 Oregon and Southern Illinois.

Freshman Josh Ferry will make his second start of the season on Sunday against the Huskers. The righty is 1-0 on the year with a 4.11 ERA in three appearances. Over 15.1 innings, Ferry has give up eight runs (seven earned) on 15 hits, while striking out nine and walking seven.

Ronnie Muck has seen the most work out of the Illini bullpen with seven appearances and 8.1 innings.

On the base paths, catcher Kelly Norris-Jones has thrown out just five runners in 19 attempts.

In the overall series it gets a bit tricky as the Nebraska record books show Illinois with a 1-0 record in the series, while the Illini's record book shows a 3-0 record. Both programs have record of Illinois' win in 1987, while the Illini also so a 3-0 win on 1905 and a 7-3 victory in 1903. According the Nebraska record books, their was no team in 1903 and Illinois does not appear on the 1905 schedule. Either way, the Huskers will be looking for their first win against Illinois starting on Friday night.

Small Ball
Even though the Huskers are ranked ninth nationally and lead the Big Ten Conference with 24 home runs through March 21, the Huskers have also put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with their bunting.

On the year, the Huskers have 17 bunt singles through 23 games, including six bunt singles in the last seven games. In 55 games a year ago, the Huskers hade just 16 bunt singles all season.

Chad Christensen, who leads the team in both home runs (6) and RBI's (27), leads the team with six bunt singles in six attempts. Bryan Peters in next with three bunt singles, while Cory Burleson and Rich Sanguinetti have two each.

Overall, the Huskers are 17-for-22 (.773) when bunting for a base hit and also have 23 sacrifice bunts on the year, including a team-high eight from Sanguinetti.

Chicks Dig It
After hitting 30 home runs in 55 games last season, led by Cody Asche's 12 home runs, the Huskers are averaging over one home run a game with 24 homers through 23 games.

Though March 21, the Husker ranked ninth nationally with their 24 home runs, with Richmond leading the way with 35 bombs.

In the Big Ten, no other teams has more than 20 homers and only four other teams have 10 or more. Michigan and Indiana are tied for second in the conference with 14 homers each.

Chad Christensen leads the Huskers with six home runs, which ties his single-season career high, while six other Huskers have at least two homers, including three each from Josh Scheffert and Pat Kelly.

What a Fourth
The Huskers strongest inning this season has been the fourth, where they've outscored opponents 37-0. Nebraska has outscored or tied their opponents this season in every inning but the first, where they have just nine runs on the year, while giving up 12.

In the first three innings of the game the Huskers hold a slim 45-41 advantage in runs, but have destroyed opponent pitching their second time through the order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings with a 85-21 advantage.

In the seventh and eighth innings the Huskers hold a 43-25 advantage, including 32 runs in the eighth alone, and are tied 12-12 in the ninth, but the Huskers have not taken an at-bat in the ninth inning in10 games this season.

Tough With Two
The Huskers have gotten clutch hits all season with two outs, as the team has 63 two-out RBI's. Leading the way is Chad Christensen, who  has driven in 16 of his team-leading 27 RBI's with two outs. Junior college transfer Richard Stock also has double-digit two-out RBI's with 10.

In 55 games a year ago, All-American Cody Asche led the team with 16 two-out RBI's, while only three players had 10 or more on the year, including Asche, Kash Kalkowski (14) and Bryan Peters (12).

Last season Christensen played in all 55 games and totaled just four two-out RBI's.

Just the Right Pritch
Sophomore Michael Pritchard has been one of the Huskers' most lethal weapons this season with a .411 batting average and a blistering on-base percentage of .469. With Pritchard in the leadoff spot, the Huskers are 9-2 on the season.

A left-handed batter, Pritchard has been tough against right and left-handed pitching, with a .423 average (11-for-26) against lefties and a .404 average (19-for-27) against righties.

Most impressive, Pritchard makes the defense get him out with only four strikeouts in 73 at bats.

Pitchers Best Friend
Through 23 games the Huskers have turned 22 double plays. NU is on pace to turn just over 53 double plays this season after only converting 35 a year ago.

In the Zone
Junior Chad Christensen is locked in right now as the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native leads or is tied for the team lead in eight offensive categories, including hits (37), RBIs (27), runs (22), triples (2), home runs (6), total bases (65), plate appearances (108) and at bats (95).

Nearly a career .300 hitter entering the year at .292, Christensen is hitting .389 on the season and was named the MVP of the Kleberg Bank Classic after leading the Huskers to victory with a two-out two-RBI double in the top of the ninth to give NU a 8-7 lead.

More impressively, Christensen has shined at the plate while playing both the outfield and infield. After starting 55 games at shortstop in 2011, Christensen moved to the outfield in 2012 and started their before freshman Pat Kelly was injured in the second game of the season. Christensen has started the past 20 games at shortstop. He has moved right back into the position with one errors and 15 double plays in 106 chances.

Drive Him In
As a team the Huskers are hitting .337 with runners in scoring position and .600 with a runner on third and less an two outs.

With a runner on third and less than two outs, Rich Sanguinetti leads the team with seven RBI's, while four other Huskers have four or more RBI's, including five from Richard Stock and four each from Cory Burleson, Chad Christensen and Kale Kiser.

They're Freshmen?
Freshmen Pat Kelly and Austin Darby have been big additions to the Huskers this season as the two are each hitting over .330, including a team-high average of .457 (16-for-35) for Kelly.

Kelly and Darby have combined to start 25 games, while hitting eight doubles, one triple, four home runs and 20 RBI's.

Darby has seen time in right field, while Kelly has started at shortstop, second base and designated hitter.

Take it for the Team
In 2011 the Huskers were hit by pitch 89 times, which tied them for 13th nationally. The team was led by Bryan Peters, who was hit 18 times to tie for 20th nationally.

A junior in 2012, Peters continues to climb the Husker career chart in hit-by-pitches and entered the year with 36, which tied him for fifth with Jake Mort (2005-09). Peters took over sole possession of third place on the career list with a HBP against Kansas State on Tuesday, March 6. It broke a three-way tie between Peters, Alex Gordon and Nick Sullivan. Peters enters Friday's game with 41 career HBP's.

Senior Kale Kiser is also on the career top-10 list with right behind Peters in fourth place with 38 hit-by-pitches

Daniel Bruce (2002-05) holds the NU career record with 67 hit-by-pitches.

He Gets My Vote
Righty Dylan Vogt has arguably been the Huskers top arm out of the bullpen with a 0.95 ERA in 19.0 innings of work over 10 appearances.

After giving up three runs in his first appearances of the year, Vogt had given up just one run since and is holding opposing batters to a .194 batting average.

Home Sweet Hawks
The Nebraska baseball program is celebrating its 11th year at Hawks Field in 2012. The Huskers are 238-82-1 (.743) since opening the park on March 5, 2002 with a 23-1 win over Nebraska-Kearney.

Nebraska plays a total of 31 games at Hawks Field in 2012, and carries a 9-4 record at home into Thursday's game against Illinois.

The Huskers are currently hosting a 17-game homestand that started with a 9-3 against Kansas State on Tuesday, March 6, and concludes with a return trip from the Wildcats on Tuesday, March 27.

Quality Wins
Nebraska's 2-2 series split with the No. 18 California Golden Bears snapped a series losing streak to ranked squads.

The Huskers had lost their last four series against ranked teams since taking 2-of-3 from No. 5 UCLA at Hawks Field in early March last season.

20-20
Senior Kale Kiser is tough on opposing pitchers with his great eye at the plate. During his career at Nebraska Kiser has walked 83 times and struck out just 62 times.

Kiser is hitting just .233 on the season, but continues to get on base for the Huskers with a .465 on base percentage. The senior is a career .288 hitter with a career .433 on-base percentage.

Fresh Start
After hitting just .220 as a sophomore following a .301 average as a freshman, Josh Scheffert re-tooled his swing and is seeing success with a .409 average in 2012.

Recently he earned the team's first ever Big Ten Player-of-the-Week honor for his successful week from March 12-18. For the week, Scheffert hit .650 with three home runs, 10 RBI's and nine runs scored.

The junior is riding a five-game hitting streak, including a career-high five hits against Louisiana Tech on March 17. Over the last five games, Scheffert has three doubles, one home run and six RBI's.

Cashing in on Rich
Texarkana CC transfer Rich Sanguinetti had been a key cog in the Husker offense so far this year. Sanguinetti is  tied with Josh Scheffert for second on the team with five multi-RBI games, while also leading the team in sacrifice bunts with eight.

The lefty has also shown that he has some pop in his bat with four doubles, one triple and two home runs. The home runs came when the Huskers needed them most, as the first was a two-run walk-off shot against New Mexico State at the Metrodome during the Dairy Queen Classic and the second was a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning in a 12-5 win over then No. 21 Cal.

Eight Draftees on 2012 Roster
For the third straight year, Nebraska's 2012 roster boasts a total of eight Huskers who have been previously selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, including Kash Kalkowski and Travis Huber, who have each been picked twice.

Stock Rising
Transfer Richard Stock has been a welcome addition to the Husker offense in 2012. The junior from Westlake Village, Calif., is hitting .353 on the year and leads the team in doubles (7) and ranks third in RBI's (13).

After playing in just one game of the Huskers' season-opening series against Gonzaga, Stock was named to both the Kleberg Bank College Classic and Dairy Queen Classic All-Tournament teams at designated hitter.

Stock has driven in a run in five runs in his last six and has seven multi-hit games this season.

A 45th-round pick out of high school by the Brewers, Stock has found new life at Nebraska after playing his freshman season at USC and last season at Pierce College in Los Angeles.

The Right 'Hander'
Junior Ryan Hander is the Huskers' go-to guy this year against right-handed hitters, as he is holding righties to a .148 batting average. Hander has a 0.82 ERA on the year over 11.0 innings of work and has given up only one extra-base hit this season.

Off to a Good Start

With their 9-6 win over the Kansas State Wildcats on Tuesday, March 6, the Huskers have won their last 34 home openers dating back to the 1979 season. Nebraska is 11-0 all-time in home openers at Hawks Field.

Walk-Off Winner
Nearly one year to the day that Bryan Peters beat No. 5 UCLA with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning on March 6, 2011, junior Rich Sanguinetti completed a ninth-inning comeback against New Mexico State at the Metrodome on March 3, 2012, with a two-run walk-off home run.

The two-run shot was the first home run of Sanguinetti's Husker career and polished off a four-run ninth inning to seal victory. The Huskers entered the ninth down 4-2 and quickly had life following a pair of hits. Michael Pritchard led off with a single and then scored from first on Richard Stock's double to cut the Aggie lead to one at 4-3. Freshman Blake Headley came in to run for Stock and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by fellow freshman Austin Darby, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning. Head Coach Darin Erstad went to his bench once again and inserted Kash Kalkowski for the afore mentioned Peters with the tying run at third base. Kalkowski got behind in the count early, but dug deep and laced a single through the right side with two strikes to tie the game at 4-4. Following an out by Kale Kiser, the Huskers were down to their last out of the inning when Sanguinetti came to the plate and lifted preseason All-American closer Scott Coffman's pitch deep into the right field seats to win the ball game.

Huskers Picked Fourth by League Coaches
The Big Ten coaches have picked Nebraska to finish fourth out of the league's 11 teams in 2012. Three Husker juniors were also named to the 'Players to Watch List', including right-handled pitcher Travis Huber, right-handed pitcher Tom Lemke and first baseman/designated hitter Kash Kalkowski.

After winning a share of the of the Big Ten title last season for the first time since 1979, Michigan State was picked as the league favorite. The Spartans were followed by Purdue, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Illinois, as only the top six teams were released by the conference office.

All Good Things Come to an End
Senior outfielder Kale Kiser started the 2012 season with a 26-game on-base streak that reached back to April 3, 2011.

The Plano, Texas, native reached base in his first eight games, but saw the streak come to an end against New Mexico State when he failed to reach base in two plate appearances.

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