Seven Huskers Earn All-Conference Hardware
Minneapolis, Minn. – Seven members of the Nebraska baseball team were honored by the Big Ten Conference on Tuesday morning, including Chad Christensen and Pat Kelly, who were each tabbed as first-team All-Big Ten performers by the league coaches. Michael Pritchard was a second-team selection, while Kash Kalkowski, Rich Sanguinetti and Blake Headley were all third-team picks. Senior Bryan Peters rounded out the group as Nebraska’s Sportsmanship Award Honoree.
A first-team pick for the second-straight season, Christensen was one of three first-team outfielders named on Tuesday after being the first-team shortstop a year ago. Entering the Big Ten Tournament, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native leads or is tied for the team lead in average (.362), hits (75), runs (39), triples (3) and home runs (2). During conference play, Christensen led the league in batting average (.431), hits (44) and runs scored (26). After playing shortstop during his first three seasons at Nebraska, Christensen made a smooth transition to the outfield in 2013, where he has eight assists on the year and no errors. His eight outfield assists rank in the top-five nationally. Christensen enters the tournament tied with Alex Gordon for ninth all-time at Nebraska in career hits with 240. Christensen is the first Husker to earn first-team honors in consecutive seasons since Gordon in 2004-2005.
A third-team pick last season as a freshman, Kelly proved himself as the league’s top second baseman in 2013. Following a freshman season that saw him post 51 hits and a .313 batting average on his way to being named a freshman All-American by four publications, Kelly tied Christensen for fourth in the league with 75 hits on the year, including 43 hits during conference play, which ranked second to Christensen’s 44 hits. A native of Red Wing, Minn., Kelly enters the weekend with a .326 average, 10 doubles, one triple, one homer and 28 RBIs. Along with his production at the plate, he has improved his play in the field, raising his fielding percentage from .966 last season to .974 in 2013.
Named a 2013 Preseason All-American, Pritchard played in the first two games of the season, but then missed 10 games with an oblique injury. Following the slow start, the Omaha native found his swing and enters the tournament with a .343 average, ranking second on the team to Christensen. Pritchard has reached base in 36 straight games and since Big Ten play started, he is second on the team with a .379 average and has a team-high 11 doubles. Pritchard put together a 20-game hitting streak earlier in the season, and with his 25-game hitting streak last season, he is the first player in school history to put together a pair of hitting streaks of 20-or-more games during a career.
Sanguinetti was named an all-conference outfielder for the second-straight season, becoming the first outfielder at Nebraska to earn consecutive all-conference accolades since Jeff Leise was a three-time Big 12 honoree from 2001-2003. Sanguinetti got off to a slow start, but after taking over as Nebraska’s primary leadoff hitter at Cal State Fullerton on March 19, the Arlington, Texas, native turned around his season senior season. Over the past 36 games, Sanguinetti is third on the team with a .351 batting average and has failed to reach base in a game only twice. Since switching to the leadoff spot, Sanguinetti has seen his overall season average rise nearly .130 points from .175 to .303, which ranks fourth on the team. After making just one error a year ago, Sanguinetti has again solidified the Husker defense with no errors in center field.
Kalkowski picked up his second career all-conference honor on Tuesday after being named an honorable-mention All-Big 12 pick in 2011. Kalkowski saw time in the outfield and at first base last season, but has become NU’s everyday first baseman in 2013. Playing one of the toughest spots on the diamond, the senior from Grand Island has looked like a seasoned veteran, with just four errors on the year. He has continued to deliver at the plate, as Kalkowski led all players during league play with 27 RBIs. The 6-1 righty had at least one RBI in 15 of his 24 Big Ten Conference games, and produced at least a pair of RBIs seven times. He delivered four RBIs in a league game twice in 2013, including at home against Ohio State (4/12) and at Purdue (4/20). Overall on the season, Kalkowski enters the Big Ten Tournament tied for 11th in the league with 37 RBIs and his 12 doubles on the year are second on the team to Prichard’s 13.
Headley earned his first all-conference honor as the third-team’s third baseman. Since senior Josh Scheffert, who was a second-team pick at third base, got hurt in Nebraska’s second Big Ten game of the season, Headley has stepped in a and made the most of his opportunity with 40 hits and 20 RBIs. The Omaha native hit .337 in 23 Big Ten games with four doubles and 14 RBIs. The sophomore has been solid at the hot corner with two errors on the season, which leads all third basemen in the conference. During league play, Headley posted a .424 on-base percentage, which ranked eighth among all players.
Peters wrapped up the list of Husker honorees, as he earned the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. A second baseman during his first three seasons at Nebraska, Peters took Kelly under his wing in 2012 and aided in the development of the freshman last season. In 2013, Peters shifted to shortstop, where again he has guided a pair of freshman in Wed Edrington and Jake Placzek. Peters has started 32 games for the Huskers this season entering the Big Ten Tournament, contributing five doubles and 16 RBIs. Peters and Kalkowski are currently tied for third all-time at Nebraska with 47 HBP.
The Huskers open postseason play tomorrow at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn., when they take on the Michigan Wolverines in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at 3:35 p.m. The game will be shown live on the Big Ten Network, while Greg Sharpe and Lane Grindle will have the call on the Husker Sports Network.