Omaha – Behind a career-high 8.2 innings from Kyle Kubat and four doubles by the Husker offense, the Nebraska baseball team posted a 6-1 win over the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday morning in front of more than 12,000 fans at TD Ameritrade Park to advance onto the Big Ten Tournament title game for the second straight year. The Huskers will play either Indiana or Michigan State tomorrow at 1 p.m. for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Now 40-18 on the season, the Huskers have won 40 games for the first time since 2008 when Nebraska ended the year with a 41-16-1 record following a loss to Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament.
Kubat was nearly untouchable on the day, giving up just three hits to the Wolverines and striking out a season-high six. Michigan’s lone run came in the top of the ninth when Kubat hit leadoff hitter Travis Maezes, who moved to second on a wild pitch and then scored following consecutive fly outs to right field that allowed Maezes to move up a base each time.
A product of Creighton Prep High School in Omaha, Kubat retired the Wolverines in order six times on the day and only allowed two runners on the base in the same inning once. Kubat is now 3-0 in three career starts against the Wolverines, including a pair of wins at the Big Ten Tournament. In 27.2 innings against the Wolverines, Kubat has allowed six runs on 19 hits, while striking out 23 with a 1.63 ERA.
Michigan starter Keith Lehmann allowed four hits and two walks over 5.1 innings in his second start of the year, but the Huskers made the most of their opportunities with a pair of runs off the 6-1 freshman. NU’s offense cashed in a one out walk in the fourth and Kelly scored in the sixth after his one-out double knocked Lehmann out of the game.
Nebraska’s 5-6-7 hitters combined to go 6-for-10 on the afternoon with two runs scored and two RBIs. The Huskers increased their tournament double total to 10 with four doubles, including one each from Kelly, Michael Pritchard, Austin Darby and Tanner Lubach.
Holding a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Huskers blew the game open when they sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs on four hits, three walks and a HBP. Kelly got the rally started with a one-out double and scored on a double by Darby. Lubach then squared up an offering from reliever James Bourque, but it went right to Maezes at shortstop for the second out of the inning. Bourque was in position to get the Wolverines out of the jam, but he hit freshman Ben Miller to load the bases and then he issued consecutive full-count walks to Steven Reveles and Ryan Boldt that plated a pair of runs. Jake Placzek then came through with a RBI infield single and Pritchard notched NU’s third bases-loaded walk of the inning to push NU’s lead to 6-0. Reliever Mac Lozer put an end to the bleeding when he got Kelly to strikeout looking.
With a 6-0 lead in his pocket, Kubat retired six straight Wolverines to cruise through the seventh and eighth innings. Kubat got the first two outs of the ninth before Luke Bublitz took the mound and struck out Patrick Kendall looking to send the Huskers to the title game.
Nebraska’s offense broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth when Lubach delivered a two-out single. The Huskers got their first base runner with less than two outs when Kelly worked a one-out walk and moved to second on a walk by Blake Headley, Lehmann’s first walks of the game. After Darby flied out to center, Lubach drove a 2-0 offering from Lehmann up the middle that plated Kelly. Lehmann kept the damage to one run by getting Miller to fly out.
After not getting a runner in scoring position through the first five innings, the Wolverines had their first scoring opportunity in the sixth when Maezes worked a two-out walk and moved to second on an infield single by Jacob Cronenworth. With Michigan’s No. 3 hitter, Jackson Glines, up, Kubat coaxed a fly ball out to Pritchard in left to end the threat and keep the Huskers in front, 1-0.
The Big Ten Network will have live coverage of tomorrow’s game, while Lane Grindle and Greg Sharpe will also have the call across the Husker Sports Network.
Tickets for tomorrow’s game can still be purchased through Ticketmaster online or tomorrow at the TD Ameritrade Box Office.