Lincoln – Behind a complete-game gem from left-hander Dan Jennings, the Nebraska baseball team extended its win streak to 14 games with a 6-1 victory over Arkansas Tuesday afternoon.
Jennings, who improved to 2-0, was the story on the afternoon, as he scattered five hits and struck out a career-high seven Razorbacks en route to his first career complete game. The left-hander from West Des Moines, Iowa, gave up Tim Smalling’s RBI single in the second before allowing one base runner into scoring position over the last seven innings.
Jennings’ performance against a hot-hitting Arkansas team was especially strong following a rocky relief outing at Kansas State on Saturday.
"He took the challenge at hand and did a great job," Nebraska Head Coach Mike Anderson said. "He had good composure. We had to make some decisions last week on some guys for three starters for the weekend (at Kansas State). Dan had an opportunity to be upset by that or challenged by that and I thought he took the challenge very well."
Jennings was helped by a strong defensive performance, as Nebraska turned four double plays, the most by a Husker team in three years, and did not commit an error.
While Jennings helped keep the Razorbacks at bay, Nick Sullivan and Mitch Abeita provided the power with home runs. Sullivan’s two-run homer, the first by the Husker left fielder since May of 2006, gave the Huskers the a 3-1 lead in the second, while Abeita’s team-high fifth homer, a three-run shot in the eighth, pushed the margin to 6-1.
The Husker win on Tuesday spoiled the return of Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn to Lincoln. Van Horn, who guided the Huskers to a pair of College World Series appearances in 2001 and 2002, received a heartfelt ovation from the 3,417 in attendance prior to Tuesday’s game.
Nebraska, ranked as high as 22nd in this week's national polls, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on the hustle of DJ Belfonte. The Husker leadoff hitter reached on an error to open the game and eventually scored off a short sacrifice fly off the bat of Opitz
Arkansas fought back in the top of the second, as Smalling’s two-out single to right scored Aaron Murphree, who reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second before beating Belfonte’s throw from right field.
The Huskers took advantage of a second Razorback miscue in the bottom of the frame, as Craig Corriston reached on an error before Sullivan, who is hitting .550 in his last nine games, lined a 1-2 pitch from Kendal Korbal into the back of the Arkansas bullpen in right. Korbal (0-3) took the loss, allowing three runs in two innings of work.
From there, Jennings got stronger as the game progressed, facing one hitter over the minimum over the final seven frames, as the Huskers snuffed out Arkansas rallies with double plays in the fourth, sixth and ninth innings, as the left-handed needed just 107 pitches to toss the Huskers’ third complete game of 2008.
Arkansas reliever San Murphy held the Husker bats in check until the eighth, with a single by Jake Mort and an Opitz double put runners at second and third with no outs. Justin Wells came into to face Abeita, but the Husker catcher deposited Wells’ offering over the fence, giving the Huskers a 6-1 cushion.
The two teams will conclude the two-game series Wednesday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Tickets are available at Huskers.com or at Hawks Field beginning at 11:30 a.m.