Huskers Finish Regular Season in Ann Arbor
(32-20, 12-9 Big Ten) at Michigan (21-32, 7-14 Big Ten)
Thursday - Kyle Kubat, Fr., LHP (4-0) vs. Matt Ogden, Fr., RHP (3-3)
Friday - Ryan Hander, Jr. RHP (2-0) vs. Brandon Sinnery, Sr., RHP (4-5)
Saturday - TBA vs. Ben Ballantine, Jr., RHP (2-3)
This Week: The Nebraska baseball team (32-20, 12-9 Big Ten) wraps up the 2012 regular season with a three-game series in Ann Arbor, Mich., against the Michigan Wolverines. The two teams play on both Thursday and Friday at 5:05 p.m. (CT), while the series finale is scheduled for a 12:05 p.m. first pitch on Saturday.
Nebraska enters the series tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings with the Michigan State Spartans. The Huskers are one-game back of both Penn State and Indiana for second place, while NU holds a one-game lead over Ohio State and a two-game lead over Minnesota.
With one Nebraska win this weekend or one loss by Minnesota, the Huskers will secure a bid to the conference tournament and will make a postseason appearance for the first time since 2008. The top-six teams in the conference will play in the Big Ten Baseball Tournament next week at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio.
Freshman lefty Kyle Kubat will start the series opener for the third straight week in conference play, while Ryan Hander will get his second straight conference start on Saturday. The Huskers have not yet announced their Sunday starter, while the Wolverines are scheduled to throw a trio of right handers, including Matt Ogden, Brandon Sinnery and Ben Ballantine.
Tickets: Bleacher seats at Ray Fisher Stadium are $7 for adults and $5 for youth/senior citizens. Chairback seats are $8.
Television: There will be no TV coverage of any game at Michigan, but all three games will be streamed live on BTN.com (subscription required).
On the Radio: Fans across Nebraska and around the world can listen Greg Sharpe and Jeff Culhane call all of the action on the Husker Sports Network - including KLIN 1400 AM and 94.5 FM in Lincoln - and on the Internet at Huskers.com or the Official Husker App. In Omaha, Thursday's and Friday's games will be carried on The Fox 93.3 FM, while Saturday's game will be back on KFAB 1110 AM. A complete list of HSN affiliates can be found on page 9.
The Michigan Wolverines look to play spoiler against the Huskers this week. The Wolverines are 21-32 overall on the season and 7-14 in Big Ten, which has them eliminated from making the Big Ten Tournament.
The Wolverines have played more games on the road this season than at home, as they are 7-11 at home, 5-15 in true road games and 9-6 at neutral sites.
Michigan has just one win at home in its last six Big Ten home games, as they were swept by Indiana and lost its series with Northwestern, 2-1.
The Wolverines hit .255 as a team and are led by Michael O'Neill's .322 average. O'Neill is also tied for the team lead in doubles (11) and leads the team in RBI's (29).
Coley Crank has 12 of UM's 31 home runs and O'Neill is the only other Wolverine with more than three home runs with six.
The Huskers are scheduled to see a trio of righties this week, starting with Matt Ogden on Thursday.
Ogden will be making his first start of the season after making a team-high 19 appearances out of the bullpen. He has a 3-3 record and a 3.11 ERA on the year in 37.2 innings of work. Ogden has given up 18 runs (13 earned) on 24 hits and 16 walks, while striking out 24.
Brandon Sinnery takes the mound on Friday and is one of the workhorses of the conference. Sinnery has thrown 92.1 innings this year over 13 starts and has four complete games, including one shutout. With a 4-5 record and a 3.80 ERA, Sinnery has given up 45 runs (39 earned) on 98 hits and 20 walks, while punching out 54. He has given up seven home runs on the year and 13 doubles.
Ben Ballantine leads the Wolverines in starts and will make his 15th on Saturday in the season finale. Ballantine has a 2-3 record and a 4.10 ERA in 68.0 innings of action. He has given up 40 runs (31 earned) on 63 hits and 32 walks, while striking out 40.
Multiple arms have seen action at the end of the game for UM, as seven pitchers have at least one save on the year, including three with two or more. Ogden leads the team with three saves.
Magic Number is 1
With three games remaining in the on the Big Ten schedule, the Nebraska baseball team needs just one win over the Michigan Wolverines or one loss by the Minnesota Golden Gophers to secure a bid to the Big Ten Baseball Tournament next week in Columbus, Ohio, at Huntington Park.
The Huskers enter the weekend tied with Michigan State for fourth in the conference, but can still move as high as second in the conference standings.
The top six teams in the league earn bids to the postseason tournament and the top two teams receive first-round byes.
The Huskers have not reached the postseason since 2008, when they were still members of the Big 12 Conference. NU also advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and hosted a NCAA Regional. NU opened with a win over Eastern Illinois, but then lost to UC Irvine and Oral Roberts.
Following a sweep of the Minnesota Golden Gophers last weekend at Hawks Field, the Nebraska baseball team in position to post consecutive conference sweeps for the first time since 2006.
During the 2006 campaign, the Huskers took three straight at Missouri and then swept Texas A&M at home.
The last time Nebraska was in position to post back-to-back sweeps in the same season was 2008 when NU swept Kansas State on the road and then took the first two games at home against Oklahoma, before the third game ended in a tie due to time limit.
Freshman Pat Kelly has made a quick transition to college pitching, as the Red Wing, Minn., is fourth on the team with a .331 batting average and is second on the team with a .564 slugging percentage, while Josh Scheffert leads the squad at .568.
Kelly is even better with a teammate on base, hitting .382 on the season. With a runner on third and less than two outs, Kelly has 10 RBI's in 16 attempts.
Kelly has hit throughout the Husker lineup and has produced 15 extra-base hits, including six doubles, two triples and seven home runs. His seven homers are the most by a Husker freshman since Alex Gordon hit seven in 2003.
Kelly has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice, including this past week for his big weekend against Minnesota. He hit .444 (8-for-18) last week in four starts with two home runs and 15 total bases.
K For Kubat
After starting three games at the beginning of the season, freshman Kyle Kubat became a tough arm out of the bullpen for the Huskers during conference play.
Kubat then moved into the starting rotation prior to the Indiana series and has won back-to-back starters for NU.
Kubat shut down the Hoosiers with a career-high seven strikeouts, the most by a Husker in 2012, over a career-high 6.2 innings of work to improve to 3-0 on the year.
After giving up two runs on three hits in the first inning against IU, Kubat found his rhythm and gave up just one hit and didn't allow a runner past second base over the next 5.2 innings.
Kubat then opened the Huskers series against Minnesota's TJ Oakes, arguably the top pitcher in the Big Ten. Kubat held his own over 6.0 innings, as he gave up three runs, all unearned, on three hits and one walk, while striking out three. NU won the game 4-3 and Kubat improved to 4-0 on the year.
In five appearances during Big Ten play, Kubat has a 1.19 ERA over 22.2 innings of work and is holding opposing batters to a .225 batting average. The 6-1 lefty has allowed 18 hits and has given up seven walks, while striking out 16.
Only Brandon Pierce has move strikeouts during Big Ten play with 20, but he thrown 9.2 more innings.
Get a Touchdown
Nebraska is 10-1 this during Big Ten play when scoring six or more runs and the Huskers are 9-1 when holding opponents to less than 6 runs.
NU is 2-8 when scoring less than six runs during conference play and 3-8 when opponents score six or more runs.
Nebraska has kept its edge in close game this seasons, as the Huskers are 5-1 in one-run games during Big Ten play.
Last season in the Big 12, NU was 3-2 in one-run games.
All Good Things Come to an End
Michael Pritchard 25-game hitting streak came to an end on Friday, May 11 when he went 0-for-4 against Minnesota.
Pritchard tied Derek Dukart for the third-longest hitting streak at NU since 1958 at 25 games with a 4-for-4 performance against Creighton the previous Tuesday on May 8.
The streak started in the Huskers' Big Ten opener against Illinois on March 23, when the Pritchard produced two hits.
He notched at least a pair of hits 10 times during the streak, including three or more hits twice.
Francis Collins holds the NU school record with a 38-game hitting streak in 1996, while Ken Ramos is second with a 28-game streak in 1987.
No statistics on hitting streaks prior to the Huskers joining the Big Eight Conference in 1958 are available.
Transfer Richard Stock has been a welcome addition to the Husker offense in 2012. The junior from Westlake Village, Calif., is second on the team with a .350 average, while leading the team in both doubles (16) and triples (3).
His 95 total bases rank second on the team to Chad Christensen's 104, while Stock is also slugging .519 and has an on-base percentage of .392.
Stock came to the Huskers as a catcher, but has developed into the Huskers' primary first baseman, while also serving as Cory Burleson's backup at the plate.
During Big Ten play Stock has been even better at the plate, as he is tied for the conference lead in hits (34) and is third in the league in batting average (.395).
Stock has produced three hits in a game eight times this year, including two games with four hits. The junior also has eight multi-RBI games on the season and is riding an 15-game hitting streak into Thursday's game at Michigan.
It is the longest active streak on the team this year and the second longest streak behind Michael Pritchard's 25-game hitting streak.
A 45th-round pick out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers, Stock has found new life at Nebraska after playing his freshman season at USC and last season at Pierce College in Los Angeles.
Tough With Two
The Huskers have come up with clutch hits all season with two outs, as 114 of the team's 331 RBI's have come with two outs. In 55 games a year ago the Huskers' totaled 91 two-out RBI's.
Leading the way is Chad Christensen, who has driven in 24 of his team-leading 46 RBI's with two outs. Last season Christensen played in all 55 games and totaled just four two-out RBI's.
Juniors Richard Stock (17), Kash Kalkowski (16), Josh Scheffert (14) and Rich Sanguinetti (10) also each have double-digit two-out RBI's, to give the Huskers five players with 10 or more 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).
Vogt of Confidence
Dylan Vogt has been the Huskers' go to man out of the bullpen with a 1.90 ERA in 23 appearances.
This past weekend against Minnesota, Vogt picked up a pair of saves when he closed games one and three.
The junior righty has worked 47.1 innings and struck out 28, while holding opponents to a .247 batting average.
Prior to his appearances against Indiana on May 6 when he gave up two runs in 3.1 innings of work, Vogt had pitched 14.0 straight shutout innings over six appearances.
Give it to the Bullpen
The depth and talent of Nebraska's bullpen has been one of its biggest strengths this season.
During Big Ten play, the Huskers are 11-0 when leading after the sixth inning, 10-0 when leading after the seventh and 11-0 when leading after the eighth inning.
Overall, NU is 28-4 when leading through six innings, 27-3 when leading through seven and 28-2 when leading after eighth innings.
Own the Fourth
The Huskers strongest inning this season has been the fourth, where they've outscored opponents 81-20. 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 their opponents this season in every inning but the first (19-42) and the seventh (22-30).
In the first three innings of the game the Huskers trail the opposition 104-109, but they have destroyed opponent pitching the second time through the order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings with a 167-77 advantage.
In the seventh and eighth innings the Huskers keep up the pressure and hold a 66-55 advantage, including a 44-25 advantage in the eighth inning.
Get on Top
Scoring the game's first runs has been important for the Huskers during Big Ten play.
In the first 21 games of the Big Ten schedule, the Huskers are 7-2 when taking the first lead of a game. When the opposition scores first, the Huskers are 5-7.
What a Difference a Year Makes
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 has been named Big Ten Player of the Week twice.
The junior is third on the team with a .348 average and is second on the team in home runs with eight. He is tied with Rich Sanguinetti for second on the team in both doubles (10) and RBI's (38).
His biggest improvement has come in his strikeout total. Last season Scheffert struck out 41 times in 150 at bats over 43 games, while this year he has just 22 strikeouts in 155 at bats over 44 games.
Scheffert has also been solid in the field at both corners of the diamond. He has just four errors on the season in 201 chances.
Setting the Pace
Sophomore leadoff-hitter Michael Pritchard has been one of the Huskers' most lethal weapons this season with a Big Ten-leading .381 batting average. Purdue's Eric Charles is second in the conference with a .367 average.
Pritchard also leads the Huskers with a .438 on-base percentage, just five points higher than Kale Kiser's .433 on-base percentage.
The Right Hander
Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Hander made his first career conference start last weekend against Minnesota and is scheduled to start again against Michigan on Friday.
In just his second career start, Hander gave up just three runs on six hits most importantly, no walks, over a career-high 5.0 innings of work.
Hander left the game with the Huskers ahead, but didn't factor into the decision as the Gophers later tied the game before NU retook the lead and won 8-7.
On the year, Hander has a 2.35 ERA over 23.0 innings and has 16 strikeouts to just four walks. He is holding the opposition to a .221 average and has allowed just two extra-base hits, both doubles.
Entering the Big Ten slate, Chad Christensen was one of the hottest hitters in the country with a .389 average, six home runs and 27 RBI's through 23 games.
Prior to the Huskers' series with Indiana, Christensen's average had fallen to .316 and he hadn't hit a home run since March 17 when he hit a home run in his third straight game against Louisiana Tech.
The shortstop found his swing against the Hoosiers with five hits and six RBI's in the three game series, including one home run each in the first two games of the series. He hit his team-leading ninth home run of the season against Minnesota.
On the year he is hitting .322 with a team-high 46 RBI's.
Chicks Dig It
After hitting 30 home runs in 55 games last season, led by Cody Asche's 12 home runs, the Huskers have already surpassed last year's total with 44 home runs in 52 games this season, including a team-high nine home runs from Chad Christensen.
In the Big Ten, Indiana and Penn State are tied for second with 33 home runs each, while Michigan is the only other program with more than 30 home runs with 31.
Helping the Pitching Staff
Through 52 games the Huskers have turned 49 double plays. NU is on pace to turn just over 51 double plays this season after only converting 35 a year ago.
Even though the Huskers lead the Big Ten Conference with 44 home runs through May 15, Nebraska has also put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with their bunting.
On the year, the Huskers have 33 bunt singles through 52 games. In 55 games a year ago, the Huskers had just 16 bunt singles all season.
Chad Christensen, who leads the team with nine home runs, also leads the team with eight bunt singles in 10 attempts.
Michael Pritchard and Rich Sanguinetti are next with five bunts singles each , while Bryan Peters has four. Cory Burleson and Austin Darby each have three bunt singles.
Overall, the Huskers are 33-for-44 (.750) when bunting for a base hit and also have 41 sacrifice bunts on the year.
Rich Sanguinetti leads the team with 13 sacrifice bunts, which is second only to Iowa's Jacob Yacinich, who has 14 sacrifices on the year.
It's Not Nice to Steal
Catcher Cory Burleson has been one of the most important cogs of the Husker defense this season with 18 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 17 bases in 35 attempts (.486) this season, with two of the 15 steals coming from Illinois on a double steal.
During Big Ten play, Burleson has thrown out eight runners in 16 attempts.
Through May 15, Northwestern's Geoff Rowan (28) and Indiana's Kyle Schwarber (24) are the only catchers in the Big Ten with more runners thrown out than Burleson, but Rowan has the second most steals allowed with 42 and Schwarber is third with 39.
10 catchers in the Big Ten have allowed 20 or more steals on the year, including seven who have allowed 25 or more. Illinois' Kelly Norris-Jones has allowed a league-high 47 stolen bases.
Burleson has worked hard in the offseason to improve his game after allowing 26 steals in 40 attempts a year ago.
Hard to Hit
Junior closer Travis Huber has been tough on opposing hitters during Big Ten play with a 0.00 ERA in 4.2 innings of work over four appearances.
During conference play, Huber has given up just four hits and one walk, while striking out six and holding opposing batters to a .211 average.
Overall, Huber holds a 2.75 ERA and seven saves in 18 appearances. In 19.2 innings, Huber has posted 17 strikeouts and given up six earned runs.
Senior Kale Kiser is tough on opposing pitchers with his great eye at the plate. During his career at Nebraska, Kiser has walked 96 times and struck out just 70 times for a 1.37 walk/strikeout ratio.
Kiser is hitting .255 on the season, but continues to get on base for the Huskers with an on-base percentage of .433, which ranks second on the team.
His team-high 33 walks are the fifth most in the Big Ten and his 13 HBP's are tied for tops in the league with Josh Dezse of Ohio State.
Under the direction of Head Coach Darin Erstad and Associate Head Coach Will Bolt, the Nebraska offense has seen great improvement across the board from a year ago.
During conference play the Huskers are hitting .306 as a team, with seven players hitting .300 or better, including a team-leading .395 average from Richard Stock.
In 2011, the Huskers hit .236 during conference play and just two players hit over .300, including Cody Asche (.351) and Michael Pritchard (.340).
He Does it All
Texarkana CC transfer Rich Sanguinetti had been a key cog in the Husker offense this season.
Sanguinetti is hitting .309 on the year with a team-high 13 sacrifice bunts and is tied with Josh Scheffert for second on the team with 38 RBI's.