Lincoln – Erik Bird scattered four hits over five innings for his first career win, as No. 15 Nebraska completed a sweep of Northern Colorado with a 9-4 victory Wednesday afternoon at Hawks Field.
Bird (1-1) was strong in his third straight start, matching his career long with five innings, as he struck out three to collect his first win in 47 career appearances. The junior right-hander from Omaha allowed single runs in the first two frames, but got stronger as the game progressed, as holding Northern Colorado scoreless over his final three innings.
"He’s deserving of one for sure for all that he has contributed over the years," Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought he did a very good job out there. His velocity is good and his demeanor fits any role. What Erik does is that he creates ground balls. If he continues to do that, he doesn’t have to be a strikeout guy for us."
Nebraska used an attack called "workmanlike" by Anderson, as six players drove in runs, including two from Jake Opitz, who also drew three walks. DJ Belfonte and Ben Kline led the Huskers with a pair of hits as Nebraska (19-3-1) won for the 18th time in the last 20 contests.
Trailing 2-0, the Huskers tied the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second before taking the lead for good in the third, scoring five runs off of Northern Colorado starter Jason Banks, who allowed seven runs over 2.2 innings to drop to 1-3 on the year.
The Huskers opened the third by quickly loading the bases with a pair of walks and a Jake Mort single. Mitch Abeita gave NU the lead with a sacrifice fly before a little trickery added to the margin. With runners on the corners, Nebraska executed a picture-perfect double steal with Mort swiping home to increase the margin to 4-2. Sullivan then continued his hot hitting with an RBI double before eventually coming home on a Northern Colorado error. David Stewart capped the five-run inning with a run-scoring single, sporting Bird and the Huskers a five-run cushion.
That would be more than enough runs for Bird and relievers Casey Hauptman and Erik Anderson, who combined to throw the final two innings. Northern Colorado tacked on single runs in the eighth and ninth, while Opitz’s two-run single in the eight accounted for the final two Husker runs.
Erik Whinery led Northern Colorado (7-17) with a 3-for-4 afternoon, as he drove in half of the Bears’ four runs, while Adam Symons also had two hits and an RBI.
Nebraska returns to Big 12 action this weekend, as they take on the No. 10 Texas Longhorns. The three-game series begins Friday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. and the game will be carried by the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com.