Manhattan, Kan. – Craig Corriston’s ninth-inning sacrifice fly broke a 1-1 tie, lifting the Nebraska baseball team to a 2-1 victory over Kansas State in both team’s Big 12 opener Friday evening.
Corriston sent a 1-2 pitch from KSU closer Daniel Edwards to left center, scoring Mitch Abeita from third with the go-ahead run, as Nebraska (12-2, 1-0 Big 12) picked up its 11th straight victory.
On a night where hits were tough to come by, Nebraska scratched across single runs in the seventh and ninth on sacrifice flies and relied on a strong pitching performance from Johnny Dorn and relievers Zach Herr and Erik Anderson
The solid effort earned praise from Head Coach Mike Anderson, who understood that with the way both teams were pitching, runs would be at a premium.
"I thought out kids competed extremely well," Mike Anderson said. "I told the team before the game that we are probably going to play a 3-2 game with Dorn and (Brad) Hutt going. From the first inning on, we were going to do anything we could to score two or three runs. We only had five hits, but we had chances and put the ball in play when we needed to."
The Huskers manufactured the go-ahead run in the ninth, taking advantage of a walk, a wild pitch and a pair of sacrifices. Abeita coaxed a leadoff walk from Wildcat reliever Lance Hoge (0-1) before Bryce Nimmo’s sacrifice bunt moved Abeita into scoring position. Hoge then uncorked a wild pitch on his first offering to Corriston, allowing Abeita to move up 90 feet. Edwards came in to try and get KSU out of the jam and threw strikes on his first two pitches before Corriston lofted a fly ball that scored Abeita.
"Corriston had two strikes against their closer and was still able to make great contact," Anderson said.
The Wildcats (7-7, 0-1 Big 12) had an opportunity in the bottom of the ninth, getting a pair of walks from Erik Anderson to put the tying run in scoring position. Anderson the got out of the jam by getting pinch-hitter Tyler Ruch to fly out to right to collect his second save. Herr (1-0) earned the win by fanning two over 1.1 no-hit innings of work.
The pitching matchup between Dorn and Hutt more than lived up to expectations, as the senior right-handers held each team scoreless through the first six frames, but neither factored into the final decision.
Dorn turned in his fourth quality start in as many outings, allowing one run over seven innings scattering four hits. He fanned five without a walk and did not allow a Wildcat hit until the sixth. Hutt was just as effective, allowing one run on five hits, as he struck out four and walked one in a no-decision.
The Huskers, who were unable to capitalize on a pair of early opportunities, broke the deadlock in the seventh, as pinch hitter David Stewart drove home Bryce Nimmo with a sacrifice fly to center. Nimmo, who went 2-for-3, opened the inning with a single to right before a Corriston base hit put runners on the corners with no outs. Two batters later, Stewart came off the bench to drive a 2-1 offering from Hutt to center, easily scoring Nimmo with the game’s first run.
"I thought it was the matchup we wanted in that situation," Mike Anderson said of Stewart’s sacrifice fly. "With the way he handles the bat, especially on the outside half of the plate, we thought he would be able to put the ball in play."
Dorn took a shutout into the seventh before the Wildcats mustered a rally. Justin Bloxom opened the frame with a double to right and scored three batters later, as Tyler Vaughn sent an 0-2 offering from Dorn into right center, just beyond the outstretched glove of a leaping Jake Opitz, to score Bloxom with the tying run.
The two teams continue the series Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., and the game will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and Huskers.com. Thad Weber will take the hill for the Huskers and will be oppose by KSU left-hander Chase Bayuk.