Huskers Look to Break Tie with Buckeyes
Nebraska (23-12, 5-4 Big
Ten) vs. Ohio State (20-12, 3-3 Big Ten)
Fri., April 13 - 5:35 p.m. (CT): Tyler King, So., LHP (1-0) vs. TBA
Sat., April 14 - 2:05 p.m. (CT): Brandon Pierce, So., RHP (4-1) vs. TBA
Sun., April 15 - 12:05 p.m. (CT): Zach Hirsch, So., LHP (3-2) vs. TBA
This Week: With and 8-3 overall record in their last 11 games and a 4-2 road record on the season, the Huskers travel to Columbus, Ohio, this weekend for a three-game series against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Huskers and Buckeyes are currently tied with Indiana for second place in the Big Ten Conference, as all three schools hold a 5-4 league record.
Action is schedule to start Friday night at 5:35 p.m. (CT) when sophomore lefty Tyler King takes the mound for his first career conference start at Bill Davis Stadium.
Brandon Pierce will start on Saturday for NU for the second straight week at 2:05 p.m., while lefty Zach Hirsch will take the mound in the finale on Sunday at 12:05 p.m.
Tickets: Single game tickets may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at (614) 431-3600 or online at ohiostatebuckeyes.com. Prices will vary based on seating location and service fees may apply. Reserved Box Seats are $11 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for students/children and everyone, regardless of age, must have a ticket in these sections. General admission bleacher seats are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students/children, and children 6 and under are admitted free.
Television: No TV coverage, but all three games will be streamed live on Buckeye Vision at OhioStateBuckeyes.com (subscription required).
On the Radio: Fans across Nebraska and around the world can listen 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 9.
NOTE - Due to Nebraska football's Spring Game on Saturday, many affiliates will join the baseball game following the conclusion of the football broadcast. In Lincoln, 105.3 WOW-FM (not KLIN 1400 AM) will carry the entire baseball broadcast.
Scouting Ohio State
The Ohio State Buckeyes enter the weekend on a six-game winning streak, including a series sweep of Minnesota last weekend at home.
The last five wins have come at Bill Davis Stadium after the Buckeyes started the streak with a 9-2 win over Miami, Ohio, in Oxford.
On the year, Ohio State is 20-12 overall and is tied with Nebraska and Indiana for second in the Big Ten with a 5-4 league record. OSU is 9-3 at home, but has struggled on the road with a 4-7 record. The Buckeyes have played well in neutral site games though with a 7-2 record on the season.
The magic number when it comes to runs for Ohio State has been six this season. When the Buckeyes score at least six runs, they are 12-1, but when they give up six or more runs, they are just 2-8. OSU also is also good when they tally more hits, as they are 13-0 on the year when out-hitting the opposition, but just 5-11 when they are out hit.
While the Huskers have scored a lot of runs late in games and have made comebacks, the Buckeyes try to get out to an early lead and hang on as they don't score much late in the game. OSU is 1-9 when trailing after six innings and 0-10 on the year when trailing after seven innings.
Offensively, the Buckeyes hit .267 as a team with five players hitting over .300 on the year. Joe Ciamacco leads the team with a .347 average, while Josh Dezse is hitting .305 and leads the team with five home runs. Dezse was named Big Ten Freshman of the year in 2011.
OSU will be one of the toughest challenges the Huskers' have faced this season on the bases, as they have 54 steals on the season and have been caught just 12 times. Kirby Pellant leads the team with 18 steals in 20 attempts, while Ciamacco is 10-for-10 and three other Buckeyes have at least five steals.
On the mound, OSU has a team ERA of 4.39 and is holding opposing batters to a .281 average. The Buckeyes have 200 strikeouts as a staff compared to 105 walks.
Brett McKinney and Greg Greve have each started a team-high eight games, while Brian King is next, with all seven of his appearances coming in starts.
McKinney has one of the Buckeyes' two complete games on the year, while Jaron Long has the other with a complete game shutout against Michigan State on March 31 in East Lansing, as the Buckeyes won 1-0 in a pitching duel. Long leads the Buckeyes with 38 strikeouts in a team-high 53.1 innings of work in six starts over eight appearances.
At the end of the game the Buckeyes may bring in Dezse from first base to close the game. The sophomore leads the team in saves with three and has a 3.86 ERA in 10 appearances. Over 14.0 innings of work, Dezse has give up six runs (all earned) on nine hits, while striking out eight, but has he has walked 11 batters.
The Huskers entered the week ranked in the top-25 nationally in nine categories, including top-five ranking in hits, batting average and runs scored.
Through April 8, the Huskers ranked second in the country in both runs (264) and hits (381), while New Mexico State, who the Huskers beat earlier this season, leads the nation in both categories with 332 runs and 387 hits.
NU sits fifth nationally with 7.8 runs per game and is ninth in batting average with a team average of .320.
The Huskers are also ranked in the top-25 in slugging (10th - .462), home runs (18th - 28), home runs per game (24th - 0.82) and on-base percentage (19th - .400).
Defensively, the Huskers rank 19th in double plays with 32, while Miami (Ohio) and North Florida lead the country with 39 twin killings.
Get on Top
Scoring the game's first run has been important for the Huskers during Big Ten play.
In the first nine games of the Big Ten schedule, the Huskers are 3-1 when taking the first lead of a game. When the opposition scores first, the Huskers are 2-3.
Piercing the Rotation
Projected as a key member of the Husker bullpen and an option to start mid-week games for the Huskers going into 2012, sophomore Brandon Pierce entered the weekend rotation for the Huskers against Iowa last weekend.
The righty made the most of his opportunity, as he improved to 4-1 on the year with a career-high six strikeouts in a career-high 6.0 innings of work. He gave up three runs on seven hits and walked three.
Pierce is set to make his second straight conference start this Saturday at Ohio State.
Setting the Pace
Sophomore Michael Pritchard has been one of the Huskers' most lethal weapons this season with a Big Ten-leading .405 batting average and an on-base percentage of .469, which is tied for fourth in the Big Ten. With Pritchard in the leadoff spot, the Huskers are 17-6 on the season.
10 times this season Pritchard has either gotten a hit or walked in the Huskers' first at bat of the game and has come around to score six times.
Cory Cuts Them Down
Catch Cory Burleson has been one of the most important cogs of the Husker defense this season with 16 runners caught stealing, which tops his season total of 14 from 2011.
The senior backstop has slowed down the opposition's running game, as team's have stolen just 10 bases in 26 attempts (.385) this season, with two of the 10 steals coming from Illinois on a double steal.
During Big Ten play, Burleson has thrown out six runners in 10 attempts.
Through April 10, Indiana's Kyle Schwarber is the only catcher in the Big Ten with more runners thrown out than Burleson with 19, but Schwarber has the most steals allowed in the league with 30. Nine catchers in the Big Ten have allowed 15 or more steals on the year, including five who have allowed 20 or more.
Burleson has worked hard in the offseason to improve his game after allowing 26 steals in 40 attempts a year ago.
King of the Hill
One week after Brandon Pierce was inserted into the weekend rotation, another new face will join the group when sophomore Tyler King takes the mound on Friday night at Ohio State.
With all 21 of his appearances coming out of the bullpen as a freshman in 2011, King has made just one start in his 17 appearances this year.
He made the most of his first start though, giving up just one hit and posting three strikeouts over 4.0 innings of shutout baseball at Kansas State on April 3.
Transfer Richard Stock has been a welcome addition to the Husker offense in 2012. The junior from Westlake Village, Calif., is hitting .360 on the year and leads the team in doubles (9) and ranks third in RBI's (26).
Stock has been even better during conference play with a team-high average of .429 (15-for-35) to rank fourth in the league.
Stock has produced three hits in a game five times this year and has six multi-RBI games.
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.
Chad Christensen has turned into a RBI machine this season with a team-high 37 RBI's in 35 games. Over his first two seasons at NU, Christensen had just 31 RBI's in 86 games.
Rich Sanguinetti isn't far behind Christensen with 30 RBI's, while four other Huskers have at least 20 RBI's on the year to give NU six players with 20+ RBI's on the season.
At the end of last season, only five Huskers had 20+ RBI's on the season, including a team-high 56 from Cody Asche. Other included Kash Kalkowski (42), Kurt Farmer (32), Bryan Peters (30) and Cory Burleson (21).
When it Counts
After hitting below .300 last season with runners in scoring position, the Huskers have come up with big hits and are hitting .354 on the season.
Four Huskers are hitting over .400 with runners in scoring position, led by Richard Stock's .452 average (19-for-49), while Kurt Farmer's is close behind with a .450 average (9-for-20). Kash Kalkowski and Josh Scheffert are each hitting .417, while 10 Huskers are hitting .300 or better.
Fresh Start for Scheff
After struggling through a sophomore season that saw him hit .220 with four doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI's in 43 games, Josh Scheffert went back to the drawing board this summer and worked on his swing.
The Lincoln native's hard work has paid off so far in 2012, as he is second on the team with a .360 average (32-for-89), while also producing eight doubles, four home runs and 21 RBI's.
Scheffert has also been solid in the field at both corners of the diamond. He has just three errors on the season in 156 chances.
After scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth against Iowa on Sunday, April 8, to win the game, 9-8, and take the series from the Hawkeyes, 2-1, the Huskers have posted two walk-off wins this season.
Earlier this year at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., junior Rich Sanguinetti completed a ninth-inning comeback against New Mexico State with a two-run walk-off home run.
The two-run shot on Saturday, March 3, was the first home run of Sanguinetti's Husker career and polished off a four-run ninth inning to seal a victory.
Even though the Huskers lead the Big Ten Conference with 28 home runs through April 10, Nebraska has also put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with their bunting.
On the year, the Huskers have 24 bunt singles through 35 games. In 55 games a year ago, the Huskers had just 16 bunt singles all season.
Chad Christensen, who leads the team in both home runs (6) and RBI's (37), also leads the team with seven bunt singles in eight attempts. Michael Pritchard and Bryan Peters are next with four bunt singles each, Cory Burleson has three, while Kurt Farmer and Rich Sanguinetti each have two.
Overall, the Huskers are 24-for-31 (.774) when bunting for a base hit and also have 30 sacrifice bunts on the year, including a Big Ten-high 10 from Sanguinetti.
Freshman Pat Kelly has made a quick transition to college pitching, as the Red Wing, Minn., sits fifth on the team with a .366 batting average and has a team-high slugging percentage of .634.
Kelly is even better with a teammate on base, hitting a team-high .421 on the season with 16 hits in 38 at-bats in the situation.
His biggest hit of the season came on Sunday, April 8, against Iowa, as he blasted a triple to the center field wall that scored two Huskers to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Kelly then scored the winning run on a walk-off single by Kale Kiser.
Kelly has hit throughout the Husker lineup, totaling 26 hits in 75 at bats, including three doubles, two triples and four home runs, while driving in 19 runs and scoring another 15.
90 Feet Away
When the Huskers get a runner to third base with less than two outs, it has nearly been a lock during conference play that NU will score a run. In nine Big Ten games, NU has posted 31 RBIs in 40 opportunities (.775).
Chad Christensen is 6-for-8 (.750) during conference play and Kale Kiser is 5-for-6 (.833)
Overall on the year, the Huskers have driven in 76 runs in 116 chances (.655).
Chicks Dig It
After hitting 30 home runs in 55 games last season, led by Cody Asche's 12 home runs, the Huskers have nearly matched that total with 28 home runs through the first 35 games of 2012.
In the Big Ten, Indiana and Michigan are the only other teams with more than 20 homers with 23 and 20, respectively.
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 a career-high four from Kale Kiser and four each from freshman Pat Kelly and junior Josh Scheffert. Kash Kalkowski has three home runs, while Rich Sanguinetti and Kurt Farmer have two apiece.
Texarkana CC transfer Rich Sanguinetti had been a key cog in the Husker offense so far this year. Hitting out of the two-hole in 31 of his 32 starts, Sanguinetti is hitting .336 on the year with a team-high 10 sacrifice bunts is second on the team with 30 RBI's.
Packing the Park
Through April 8 the Huskers ranked 16th in the country in average home attendance with 3,165 fans per game and 13th in overall attendance with 63,318 fans through the gates at Hawks Field.
No other Big Ten team ranks in the top 50 of either category.
LSU leads both rankings with an overall number of 252,028 fans through 24 games for an average of 10,501 per game.
Home Sweet Hawks
The Nebraska baseball program is celebrating its 11th year at Hawks Field in 2012. The Huskers are 244-84-1 (.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 is 15-6 at Hawks Field after beating Creighton on April 10 by a score of 5-3.
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.
Through April 8, the Huskers ranked 78th nationally in HBP with 39. Kale Kiser leads the team and ranks 48th in the nation with 10 HBP, while Peters is next on the squad with seven.
Peters and Kiser continue to climb the Husker career chart in HBP and rank third and fourth, respectively.
Peters 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 43 career HBP.
Kiser is right on Peters' heels with 42 career HBP after being hit twice in two at-bats against Northwestern last weekend.
DJ Belfonte (2007-10) sits second on the career list with 59 hit-by-pitches and Daniel Bruce (2002-05) holds the NU career record with 67 hit-by-pitches.The Bolt Effect
The Husker offense has seen major improvement under the direction of Associate Head Coach Will Bolt.
Looking at NU's numbers through 35 games in 2011 and 2012, the Huskers have struck out 66 fewer times, walked eight more times, produced 50 more hits, scored 45 more runs and are hitting 33 points higher as a team at .318.20-20
Senior Kale Kiser is tough on opposing pitchers with his great eye at the plate. During his career at Nebraska, Kiser has walked 87 times and struck out just 64 times. His 87 career walks rank 10th on the Huskers' all-time charts, while Joe Simokaitis is ninth (90) and Associate Head Coach Will Bolt ranks eighth (91).
Kiser is hitting just .207 on the season, but continues to get on base for the Huskers with a .419 on base percentage. His team-high 24 walks are second most in the Big Ten.
Pitcher's Best Friend
Through 35 games the Huskers have turned 34 double plays. NU is on pace to turn just over 54 double plays this season after only converting 35 a year ago.
Tough With Two
The Huskers have come up with clutch hits all season with two outs, as 86 of the team's 241 RBI's have come with two outs. Leading the way is Chad Christensen, who has driven in 18 of his team-leading 37 RBI's with two outs. Last season Christensen played in all 55 games and totaled just four two-out RBI's.
Juniors Richard Stock and Kash Kalkowski also each have double-digit two-out RBI's with 14 and 12, respectively.
In 55 games a year ago the Huskers' totalled 91 two-out RBI's. 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, Kalkowski (14) and Bryan Peters (12).
Bummer for Batters
Left-handed hitters have been stumped the plate with freshman lefty Aaron Bummer on the mound, as lefties are hitting just .143.
A 31st-round pick by the Yankees out of Sunrise Mountain HS in Peoria, Ariz., Bummer has given up just two hits to a lefty batter this season.
Bummer has 14 strikeouts in 12.0 innings this season and has pitched in both Husker shutouts.
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.
He Gets My Vote
Righty Dylan Vogt has arguably been the Huskers top arm out of the bullpen with a 1.86 ERA in 29.0 innings of work over 16 appearances.
After giving up three runs in his first appearances of the year, Vogt had given up just six in his last 15 trips to the mound and is holding opposing batters to a .240 batting average.
What a Fourth
The Huskers strongest inning this season has been the fourth, where they've outscored opponents 47-7. The Huskers didn't give up a run in the fourth inning until Illinois plated one run against the Huskers in the team's 25th game of the season on Saturday, March 24.
Looking at just the first eight innings of a game, Nebraska has outscored or their opponents this season in every inning but the first, where they have just 16 runs on the year, while giving up 17.
In the first three innings of the game the Huskers hold a 80-60 advantage in runs and have destroyed opponent pitching their second time through the order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings with a 109-43 advantage.
In the seventh and eighth innings the Huskers keep up the pressure and hold a 60-38 advantage, including 40 runs in the eighth alone.
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.
Along with Head Coach Darin Erstad, two other former Huskers have put on the Nebraska baseball jersey once again in 2012 as former players Will Bolt (1999-02) and Jeff Christy (2005-06) are part of Erstad's coaching staff.
Bolt is the Huskers' associate head coach and returned to his alma mater after serving as the head coach at Texarkana College the past four years. Bolt works with the Husker infielders and helps direct the offense, while also coaching third base.
Prior to his time at Texarkana, Bolt was a volunteer assistant at Texas A&M for two seasons after serving as a volunteer on the Huskers' 2005 College World Series Team.
As a player, Bolt was a member of then-Head Coach Dave Van Horn's first recruiting class. The Conroe, Texas, native was a four-year starter and team captain on Nebraska's 2001 and 2002 College World Series teams.
Christy returns to Nebraska as the team's volunteer assistant after working in the same position at Wichita State in 2011. One of the top catchers in program history, Christy works with the catchers and coaches first base.
After playing his first two seasons at Barton County CC, Christy caught a school-record 64 games as a junior in 2005, hitting .236 with 32 RBIs, while throwing out 45 percent of opposing runners, including 8-of-11 runners in the postseason. An honorable-mention All-Big 12 pick in 2006, Christy hit .284 with eight homers and 32 RBIs, while leading the Huskers to 42 wins and a No. 6 national seed.
Drafted by the Minnesota Twins, Christy reached Triple-A Rochester in both 2008 and 2009.
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.
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.
The longest streak for a Husker this season was by Chad Christensen, who reached in 27 straight games. Michael Pritchard has the longest active streak at 18 games entering Friday.
All but three players on this year's 32-man roster have seen the field though the first 35 games of the season.
In the field, three freshman have earned starts, while on the mound Aaron Bummer and Jeff Stovall have each earned relief appearances.